A Celan Poem from Snowpart

As I am going over / completing / revising my Paul Celan translations, I find here & there among the posthumous volumes a few poems I hadn’t translated so far. Here is one of these — the one that opens the third cycle of SNOWPART. It was written on 19 & 20 March 1968, just after Celan’s first meeting with his wife Gisèle since there separation in April 1967.

Why this brusque at-homeness, out midst, in midst?
I can, look, sink myself into you, glacier-like,
you yourself slay your brothers:
earlier than they
I was with you, Snowed One.

Throw your tropes
in with the rest:
Someone wants to know,
why with God I
was no different than with you,

wants to drown in that,
two books instead of lungs,

someone who stabbed himself into
you, bebreathes the cut,

someone, he was the one closest to you,
gets lost to himself,

someone adorns your sex
with your and his betrayal

I was both


* * *

Warum dieses jähe Zuhause, mittenaus, mittenein?
Ich kann mich, schau, in dich senken, gletschrig,
du selbst erschlägst deine Brüder:
eher als sie
war ich bei dir, Geschneete.

Wirf deine Tropen
zum Rest:
einer will wissen,
warum ich bei Gott
nicht anders war als bei dir,

will drin ersaufen,
zwei Bücher an Stelle der Lungen,

einer, der sich in dich stach,
beatmet den Stich,

einer, er war dir der nächste,
geht sich verloren,

einer schmückt dein Geschlecht
mit deinem und seinem Verrat,

war ich jeder


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5 Responses

  1. Poo says:

    I remember this moment well.

  2. françois says:

    Any plans on doing a Complete Poems of Paul Celan, like the Bibliothek Suhrkamp’s Gedichte volumes?

  3. Very moving poem. How nice you recovered it. In it he brings a great deal of his self-destruction into the life force involved in their love. CE

  4. Your death has not yet finished
    Again you awaken in lies
    From the death of sin
    Across the grave I kiss you
    As I always have caressed the dead


  5. lissa says:


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