We Exchange Dark Words
Wir sagen uns Dunkles

boettiger cover
Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt
August 2017 / 272pp

This book is outside of the five-year window for guaranteed assistance with English language translation. We suggest getting in touch with the relevant funding body for an informal conversation about the possibility of support. Please refer to to our  recommendations page for books that are currently covered by our funding guarantee.


We Exchange Dark Words is a gripping and authoritative introduction to these two outstanding poets as well as to the historical circumstances of their influential oeuvres.

Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan met in Vienna in the spring of 1948, when they were both still young and unknown poets. They embarked upon a passionate love affair which, despite its brevity, shaped their lives and writing until the early 1960s, during which time they became two of Europe’s most important literary figures. Böttiger’s book follows this pair of fragile souls in their personal lives, including their failed attempts to live together, as well as in their literary journeys. He offers an insightful portrayal of the poets’ personalities, of their literary entourage and, more generally, of the reshaping of the intellectual milieu after the end of the Second World War.

This fascinating book has a guaranteed international readership, as both poets are widely read in English translation. Böttiger’s knack for combining biographical information with literary analysis, together with the vivid picture he paints of post-war Europe, cements this title’s appeal.

press quotes

The love story of these two poets is one of the most dramatic and fateful episodes in German literature after 1945.

– Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

about the author

Helmut Böttiger has served as the literature editor of the daily Frankfurter Rundschau and other newspapers. Since 2002 he has worked as a freelance writer and critic in Berlin. He was awarded the 1996 Ernst Robert Curtius Promotion Prize for Essay Writing, the 2012 Alfred Kerr Prize for Literary Criticism, and the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair 2013.

rights information

Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt

Verlagsgruppe Random House

Neumarkter Str. 28, 81673 Munich, Germany

Contact: Gesche Wendebourg

Tel: +49 894 136 3470

E-Mail: gesche.wendebourg@randomhouse.de



Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt has an outstanding reputation as one of Germany’s leading non-fiction publishers, with an emphasis on history, memoirs, biography and current affairs. DVA also has an exquisite list of literary fiction. Among the bestselling authors are Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Sebastian Haffner, Martin Doerry, Ian Kershaw, Anne Enright, and David Wroblewski. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt has been a part of Verlagsgruppe Random House since 2006.

translation assistance

Applications should be made to the Goethe-Institut.

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