Paul Celan…

PC… born today, 23 November, 93 years ago, i.e. in  1920. Left in 1970; is stilled missed. But we have the work. Here is one of the first poems of his I translated back in 1968, the year after Atemwende / Breathturn, the volume from which it is taken, came out:

Eroded by
the beamwind of your speech
the gaudy chatter of the pseudo-
experienced — the hundred-
tongued perjury-
poem, the noem.

the path through the men-
shaped snow,
the penitent’s snow, to
the hospitable
glacier-parlors and -tables.

in the timecrevasse
in the
waits, a breathcrystal,
your unalterable




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4 Responses

  1. Tad Richards says:

    This is a wonderful translation.

  2. Dear Pierre,
    I have a question about your translation: I’m curious why some of the compounds are hyphenated and some are not. Obviously, the ones with line breaks in them need to be hyphenated, and I think I understand why you use hyphens with “glacier-parlors and -tables” (so as to mark the double compounding). But why a hyphen in “honeycomb-ice” but not in “breath crystal”?

    • Pierre Joris says:

      Some of those are decisions re legibility — English compounds are more difficult to read than German ones — so at times —as in the example you cite — I make the decision to hyphenate. Whenever I feel the compound does not harm the reading of the poem, I’ll use it.

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