Paul Celan

November 2010 marks the ninetieth anniversary of the birth of Paul Celan (1920-1970), one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. As a series of events in London celebrates the poet’s life, we include new versions of some of his later poems by Wieland Hoban.

‘The writer who, more than any other, challenged Adorno’s declaration that there could be no poetry written after Auschwitz, Paul Celan fashioned a unique poetic approach that sought to reclaim a tongue corrupted by Nazi appropriations. Profoundly metaphorical, richly stratified with layers of meaning and association, while also startlingly visceral and materially present, his oeuvre is a statement of enduring importance, embodying the necessity for public and private remembering and, by its very existence, celebrating the role of art as a means by which we might make paths out of trauma towards tentative recovery.’– Gareth Evans, curator of Paul Celan. A Memorial and Celebration

SOMETHING WILL COME, later,
that fills itself with you
and raises itself
to a mouth

From the shards of
delirium
I arise
and watch my hand
draw the one, the only
circle

 

SCOOPED with the ash trowel
from the trough of existence,
soapy, at the
second
attempt, to-
wards each other,

inconceivably nurtured now,
far
beyond us and already – wherefore? –
lifted asunder,

then (at the third
attempt?) blown
behind the horn, before the
standing
tear-stump,
once, twice, thrice,

from an unpaired,
budding-split,
flag-petalled
lung.

 

ILLEGIBILITY of this
world. Everything double.

The mighty clocks
concede to the split hour,
hoarse.

You, wedged into your innermost,
step out of yourself
for ever.

 

A BOOTFUL of brains
placed out in the downpour:

there will be a going, a grand one,
far beyond the limits
they set us.

 

YOU LIE beyond
yourself,

beyond you
lies your destiny,

white-eyed, flown
from a song, something joins it,
something that helps
with the uprooting of tongues,
even at noon, outside.

 

YOU HURL gold at me
as I drown:
perhaps a fish will accept 
the bribe.

authors(s)

Paul Celan (1920-1970) was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Czernowitz, now part of Ukraine. He lived in Paris from 1950 until his death, where he wrote poetry and translated out of seven languages into German. He received Germany’s major literary prize, the Büchner Prize, in 1960. These translations are of poems from his collections LichtzwangSchneepart and Zeitgehöft, published by Suhrkamp.


Wieland Hoban was born in London in 1978. He studied music and German at Bristol University from 1997-1998, following by studies in composition from 1998-2003 with Hans Zender, Gerhard Müller-Hornbach and Isabel Mundry at the Frankfurt Academy of Music and Performing Arts. In addition to ongoing international activities as a composer, he has conducted extensive translation work in the fields of (contemporary) music and philosophy, especially works and correspondences by Theodor W. Adorno and Peter Sloterdijk, as well as essays for a variety of academic journals 
and publications.