Pastior Prize & Interview
WELT.de: 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?
WELT.de: 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.
WELT.de: 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.
WELT.de: 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.
WELT.de: 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?