Pastior Prize & Interview

Rosmarie Waldrop & Oskar Pastior

Oskar Pastior (see my post of 6 October 2006) was posthumously awarded the Büchner Prize this past weekend. On the occasion the German paper Die Welt reprinted an interview with Pastior which you can read in full here. Below, a few excerpts, all too rapidly translated by yours truly: How did you become an experimental poet?

Oskar Pastior: That is related to the relative multilinguism with which we grew up and learned to think in Siebenbürgen. Besides the mother tongue we learned to think through the other languages; what do the Rumanians, or the Hungarians or the ideologues — the latter are indeed a special human species — hear in what I am saying? So did your poetry also arise from a sceptical stance toward language?

Pastior: Yes. It turns sceptical nolens volens. Especially when one had the experience of a world completely shattering in 1944/1945. Shattered also a whole range of cocnepts that had seemed completely solid.

WELT: How is that caesura mirrored in your work?

Pastior: The whole of my work is tributary to those life experiences. I don’t know if whithout them there would have been a life’s work. If I would have wanted to write. Or what would have happened if I hadn’t been deported at seventeen, but instead had had to enlist in the army and been killed in the war. Your deportation to the Soviet Union in 1945 was a terrible experience — as well as your salvation.

Pastior: That’s it. It is Stalin who decreed that the Germans from Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Chekoslovakia be deported, for forced labor. We were chosen as germans, not as Romanians. And so if here I am called a poet of romanian descent, then they rob me of those five years that I spent there in the Ukrane, also as the recognition of collective guilt. And we were chosen because we were german, not romanian. I helped pay off that guilt. That’s how I experienced it.

….. Isn’t it a refiguration of language that interests you? A refiguration of language and thus also of our expectations?

Pastior: That too. There’s also the problem that our European languages are in something like a pre-Newtonian state. Our language cannot realize the insights of modern physics, as it is still caught in the subject / object opposition. Does language hobble along or is it completely stuck?

Pastior: It hobbles along. What matters to me is that poems should teach language. What syntax do I have to use to be able to think transitively and intransitively all at once? The realisation that light is both wave and particle cannot be reconciliated and unified via a dialectics à la Brecht. It has to be shown, but how do you show simultaneity?

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1 Response

  1. September 18, 2010

    […] On a number of occasions NOMADICS has spoken in praise of the poet Oscar Pastior, such as on the occasion of him receiving the Büchner Prize posthumously (click here). […]

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