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Cross;'lg Aesthetics
Werner Hamacher
& David E. Well bcry
Translated by
Andrea Tarnowski
Stall ford
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe
Porlry dJ &pmrllU
was originally publ ished in French in [986
undN [he tide La pohir rI1mmr rxphirllu
@1986byChrinian Bourgois Editeur.
for the translation was provided by Ihe
French Minisrry of Culture.
9904 345
Univeniry Pr=;
Stanford, California
Chm by [he Bo.Jrd of Trusll'eS
ofJhe Leland Stanford Junior University
I'rim<"d in [he Uni[cd SEales of America
C[ P at [he end of [he book
A Nou 01/ Ciltlrioll
, Catasuophe
, Prayer
Sublime 87
4 Hagiography
The Power of Naming
6 Pain
Ecstasy ' 0'
8 Vert igo ' 04
Blindness .06
10 Lird
II Sky
/2 The Unforgivabl e
o t ~
WOrks Ciud
A Note on Citation
The abbn .. 'Viation GW designates Paul Celan's Gnammrlu Werke;
SW designatcs Friedrich Holderli n's Siimrliche Werkt'.
Two Poem, by Palll Celan
ExlUond an!
No. BUI accollllUony an imo )'Our own unique
place or no !'SCI pe. And yoursdrfra:.
MOIne Mcridian
Here are rwo poems by Paul Cclan:
Zur Blindheil ubcr-
redete Augen.

Ratsel ist Rein-
emsprungencs" -, ihre
Erinnerung an
schwimmende Holderiimurme, mowen-
Besuehe enrunkener Schreiner bei
tauchenden Wonen:
kame ein Mensch.
kame tin Mensch Iur Welt, heme, mit
dem Li chtban der
Patriarchen: er durfle.
sprach er von dieser
Zeil, er
7;1'0 Poml! by POIII Two Pomu by Palll U"1Il 5
Ilur fa llen und lallen. die in <las Such
immcr-, immcr-
-wessell Namen nahms auf
vor dem mcincn?-

di e in dies Such
gcschricbcnc Zci lc von
einer Hoffnung, helUe,
auf cines Dcnkenden
Eyes l:llked imo
bli ndness.
Thei r- "an cnigm:l is
im Hcncn.
the purel y
Waldwascn. unci ngccbnct,
originaled"-, [heir
Orchis und Orchis. einzdn,
memory of
Holderli n lowers aRoal , ci rcled
Krudcs, illl Fahren,
by whirring gulls.
Visits of drowned joiners 10
def uns f:ihrt , def Mensch,
der's mil anhart,
submerging words:
die halb-
bcschriuc: nc:n Knl.ippel-
should :l man,
p&dc im Hochmoor,
should a man come: into the world, today, wi,h
[he: shining of the
pat riarchs: he coul d,
jfhc spoke of this
lime, he
could Arnica, eyebright, the
only babbl e and babble draft from t he wel l with the
over, over
starred die above it,
in the
(" Pallaksh.
hut ,
the line
- whose name did the book
Arni ka, Augemrost, der
register before mi ne?-
Trunk aus dem Bmnnen mit dem
the li ne inscri bed
Su:rnwlirfcl dt:luf,
in that book abom
in (ler
a hope, today.
Hii IlC,
of a thinking man's
Ji4t(} PomlS by Paul
in the hc:l.fI,
woodland sw:a.rd, unlevelled,
orchid and orchid, si ngle.
coarse stufT, l:ucr, clear
In passing,
he who drives us, the man,
who listens in,
the half-
trodden wret ched
tracks through the high moors.
These rwo poems are well known; each of them has been trans-
lated into French at least rwice. The fim, which is pan of the
mandsrou coll ection (1963), was initially translated by du
Bouche! (appearing in L'Ephtmm7. and then in Smru, published
by Mercure de France in (971) before figuri ng in the completc edi-
tion of Ln T()U tk edi ted by Martine Broda (I.e Nouveau
Commerce, 1979). The second. issued on its own in 1968 and then
republished in LichrzWflllg in July '970, two or duet months after
Celan's death. was translated by Jean Daive as early as 1970, and
then, several years latcr, by Andre du Boucher Palll
Clivages, 1978). Orher published vcrsions of these poems
II is obvious that the tidcs of bmh arc placcs: Tlibingen, Todt-
nauberg. The poems seem, in each case, to commemorate a visi !.
BlIt it is also obvious that these place names can additionally, even
primarily, be names of JX:ople. Whatever trope we usc, the indi ca-
tions. Ihe quotations, the allusions are all perfectly cl ear; and in any
case. we already know that Tli bingen is H6JderJi n. and Todt -
nauberg, Heideggcr. I don't imagine it would be very useful to
stress the reasons that prompt us today (hmtr. each poem incl udes
Two Pomu by Paul 7
the word) 10 associate the two poems. For everyone who is. as we
say. "concerned about our times" and of (Euro-
pt.'an history), the two names, HQ,lderl in and Heidcgger, arc now
indissolubly linked. T hey to...wbaLis..aLstake in our era
(dit:ur ait). A world age-perhaps the worl d's old age-is ap-
pr03ching its end, for we are reaching a completion, closing the
ci rcle of what the philosophical West has called. since Grecian
times and in multiple ways, "knowledge. That is, U(/me. What has
not bttn deployed. what has been forgoncn or rejected in the
midst of this completion-and no doubt from the very begin-
ning-must now dear itself a path to a possible future. let us agltt
to say [hat this pertains. as Heidegger says himself, to the "task of
thought." Such thought must re- inaugurate history. reopen the
possibil iry of a world, and pave the way for the improbable, un-
/foreseeable advent of a god. Only this might "save" us. For this I
task. art (again. uchlle). and in art. poetry. are perhaps able to pro-
vide some signs. At least. that is the hope, fragil e. tenuous. and
meager as it is.
Whi le it may nm be useful to suess. it is no doubt helpful at
least to remark the foll owing:
I. German.
It is nOt exclusively so, but since [he end of the eighteenth century.
Germans have brought it a dimension never attained before or else-
where; one reason for this, among others, is that the question of
, he rcladon berween Modern and Ancient, and of the possibiliry
of uniqueness or idemiry for a whole people. has never been so
much a as it has been in Germany. T hat is. first and fore-
most. a quest ion for the "nation" - [he people-and in the lan-
gU3ge, a latecomer to the world after the sumptuous.
di splay of European uninity. German has never ceased
on pretense of its strange similarity 10 Greek (t he "language of Ori -
gin"). to the unique rel ation it has believed it could establish to
everything most aut hemi cally Greek about Greece.
2 . Paul Celan (Ancel) was born in Czernowirl, Bukovina. of
German Jewish parents. Whatever the fine of Bukovina in the years
that marked the end of Cclan's adolescence {he was born in
1;00 PomlJ by Paul Celnn
192.0)- il was, sliccessively, annexed by the U.S.S. R. in 1940, oc
cupi ed by Germany and Romania in 1941, and reconquered by the
Red Army in 194J-Celan was not jUst a l the extreme fringes of
Milu/l'/Iropa; he was of German binh, born into that language. In
a mit: :Uld understandably forgonen sense, his nl1tio""liry was Ger
man. This did nO( in any way preclude his having a completely dif-
fcrclH origi n, or to be more precise, a completel y different herimge.
Thus, hi s language always remained that of the Other, an Other
I language wit hout an "olher language," previously rather than lat-
erally acquirf, agai nst which to measure itsdf. Al l OIher languages
were necessarily lateral for Celan; he was a gre.:.l.1 translator.
J. Paul Celan knew, as everything he wrote attests (and first and
foremost, hi s acceptance of German as his working language), t hat
today it is with Germany that we must clarifY things.
only because Cdan suffered as the victim of Germany's
"Hyperborean" utopia, but because he knew it was impossible 10
el ude the question that the mopia's atrocity had transformed int o
an answer, a "solution." He embodied an exu eme, eternaJl y insol.
ubl e paradox in Germany as one of the few people, aJmost the only
person, to have borne wi tness ro the truth of the question that re-
mains, as ever: (But) who are we (still , IOday, hmu)?
4 The exterminati on gave rise, in itS impossible possibility, in
itS immense and intolerable banality, to the postAuschwio. era (i n
Adorno's sense). Celan said: " Death is a master who comes from
Germany. "6 It is t he impossible possibility, the immense and intol.
crable banality of our time, of this time (di Na ait). It is always
easy to mock bm we arc its contemporaries; we arc at
the endpoint of what Nom, ratio and Logos, still today (hell u) the
ffamcwOrk for what we are, cannot have tailed to show: t hat mur.
is fi rst thing to COUnt on, and elimination the surest means
of Identification. Today, everywhere, against thi s black but "en-
backgrou nd, remai ning reali ty is di sappearing in the
mire of a "globalized" world. Nothing, nOI even the most obvious
phenomena, nOI even the purest, most wrenching love, can escape
this era's a cancer of the subject, whet her in the ego or in
the masses. To deny this on pretcxt of avoiding t he pull of pathos is
Two Pomu by Paul ulan 9
{O behave like a sleepwalker. To transform it into pathos, so as 10
be able "stiW 10 produce art (.sentiment, etc,), is unacceptable.
I want to ask the most brutal quest ion possi ble, at rhe risk of
being obnoxious: Was Celan able to situate not himself, but us
"it"? Was poetry still able to? If so, which poetry, and
what , in fact , of poet ry? Mine is a di stant way (di stant now by
many degrees, heavil y layered over the very man who first asked)
of repeating Holderlin's questi on: WOZfl Dichurf What for. indeed?
Here is how the twO poems I believe carry all [he weight of t his
questi on have been translated into French:
(And" du Boudm)
A c6:itt' meme
mucs, pupillcs.
Leur-'cnigme cd a,
qui cs[ pur
jaiUissc:mem'-, leur
me! moirt de
[ours Holderl in nage;mt , d' un baltemem de moueefes
Visitcs de menuisiers engloutis par
paroles plongcam:
S'il venail,
venait un homme.
homme venai t au monde, aujourd' hui avec
dane! et barhe des
patriarc.hes: illui faudrail,
dut-il parler de tdle
e!poque, illui fa udrait
babiller uniquemem. babiller
toujours el louj ours ba-
bi ll er iller.
Till{) by Palll Cr/1I11
(Mflr/illt' Broda)
DI.'S )"<:U;II: $Ous les paroles
uvcugl6 .

cc qui nail
de source leur
souvenir de
[Ours Holderlin nageam, tournoyecs
de mouC:ltcs.
Visites de menuisiers noyes
. '"
mots qui plongent:
S' il YCll ait,
vcnait un homme,
vcnait un homrnc au monde, aujourd'hui, avec
la barbc de dane
des pat riarches: it devrail,
s' i1 pariah de: cc
temps, iI
begayc: r sculemcm. begaycr
r PaJJaksch. Paliaksch.
Arnika, ccm2ur&:, [a
boisson du puil.S avec, au--<!.essus.
ecrit c dans Ie livre
IIIe! nom ponair-it
aV:l.1l1 Ie rni cn?).
Two Iwm! by Palll C,.iall
rit e dans cc livre
1a lignc,
aujourd'hui, J 'unc mente:
de qui pense
parole il, venir
au coeur,
de la mousse des bois, non aplanie,
orchis ct orchis. cbirscmc.
de 13 vcrocur, plus tard , en voyage.
disti ncte,
qui now conduit , I'homme,
qui, eela, lend l'oreille,
Ics chemins
de rondins demi
parcourw dans la fange,
de I'humide,
u ..
(Andr! du Boudm)
Arnika, luminel, cene
du pUi lS au
cube etoile plus h3U1 du de,
dans la
dans un livre
- Ics noms, de qui , rdeva.
avant Ie mien?-
la. dans un livre,
lignes qui inscrivent
une 3I1ent(, aujourd' hui.
de qui m&liteta
venir, in-
ccssammcll1 veni r)
un mot
du coeur
IiI)() Poems by Paui Celan
hUlIlus des bois, jamais aplani,
orchi s, orchis,
un ique,
chose crue, plus [ard, chemin faisam,
clai re,
qui nous voitura,
I' homme,
lui-meme a son 6.::oute,
it moitie
fraye Ie layon de rondi ns
la- haut dans Ie marais,
(At rhe end of Andre du Bouchet's slim volume, we read the fol-
lowing note: '''Todtnaubcrg' was translated using the ini tial version
of the poem, dated ' Frankfurt am Main, 2 August 1967.' From a
word-for-word translation suggested by Paul Celan, I have kept the
French 'qui nous voitura' for 'der uns fahrt .' A.d.B.")
I am nor juxtaposing these rranslations here in order to compare
or commem on them. It is nor my inrenrion [Q "cri tique" them. At
most, I thi nk it necessary [Q remark that what we might call rhe
uMallarmean" style of Andre du Bouchet's nanslarions, their effete
or precious quali ty, does not do j ustice [Q the lapidary hardness,
the abruptness oflanguage as handled by Cel ano Or mher, the lan-
guage that held hi m, ran through him. Especiall y in his late work,
prosody and synrax do violence [Q language: they chop, dislocate.
truncate or Cut it. Something in this certainly bears comparison [Q
what occurs in Holderlin's last, "paratactic" efforts. as Adorno calls
them: condensat ion and j uxtaposition, a strangling of language.
But no lexical "refinemelll ," or very little; even when he Opts for a
SOrt handling of metaphor or "image," he does not de-
part from essentiall y simpl e, naked language. For exa mple, the
"such" used twice as a demonst rat ive in the "Mallarmean"
Two Ponm by Paui
' 3
translation of "Tubingen, January" is a turn of phrase totall y for-
eign [Q Celan's style. Even more so the "A mcme I mue,
pupiJl es" CTo blindness itsel f I moved, pupils") that begins the
same poem in what is indeed the most obscure way possible. But I
do not wish to rcopen rhe polemic initiated a decade or so ago by
Meschonnic. '
No, though I recall these rranslations, and though I will even, in
turn, try my hand at translating, I do not wish to play at compar-
ison- a game oflimited interest. Nor do I cite them as an obliga-
tory preamble to commentary. I give the translations only so we
can see where we stand. I believe these poems to be completely un-
translatable, incl uding within their own language, and indeed, for
this reason, invulnerabl e to commentary. They lucmarily escape
imerpretation; they forbid it. One could even say they are written
to forbid it. This is why the sole question carrying them, as it car-
ried all Celan's poet ry, is that of meaning, the possibili ty of mean-
ing. A transcendental questi on, one might say. which does to some
extent inscribe Celan in Holderlin's li neage or wake: rhat of "po-
etry's poetry" (without, of course, the least concession to any SOrt of
"formalism") . And a question that inevitably takes away, as Hei-
degger found wi th bot h Holderli n and TrakI , all forms of her me-
neutie power, even at one remove: for example, envisioning a "her-
meneut ics of hermeneurics." For in any case, sooner or later one
finds oneself back at "wanti ng to say nothing," which exceeds (or j..-
fall s shorr of) all "want ing to say," all intention of signifYing, since
it is always caughr in advance in an archetypal double bind of the
"Don't read me" sort; in this instance, something like, "Don't be-
li t.'"Ve in meaning anymore." Si nce Rimbaud's time, ler's say, this has
always amounred to saying "Believe don't believe in meaning
anymore, " which at once raises and demotes, patheti cally, risibly,
or fraudulently, the "I" that thus projects itself to (and from) the
fUllction of incarnati ng meaning.
The question I ask myself is indeed that of the subj ect, that can-
cer of the subject, both the ego's and the masses' . Because it is fi rst
the questi on of whoever today (hntte) mi ght speak a language other
than the subject's, and attest or respond to the unprecedented ig-
T/uo by Pall!
nominy thac the "age of the subjed' rendered itself-and re-
mains- guilty of. At least since Schlegel and Hegel, it is also, in-
dissocial>l y. the question of rhe lyric: is lyric a "subjective" genre?
In S UIll , it is the question of the banished singularity of rhe subject
or. wh:u amounts to the sa me thing, rhe queslion of idiom, of
"pure idiom," if that can exisr. Is it possible, and necessary. ro
wrench oneself Oll( of the language of the age? To say what? Or
rather, to speak what?
Such a questi on, as you perceive-and here 1 am barely shifting
angles-is no different from that of rhe relat ion between "poet ry
and thought ," Dichtm IIlId Denkm, a questi on indeed speci fi cally
asked in German. What is a work of poetry that. forswearing the
repetition of the di sastrous, deadly, already-said, makes itself ab-
solut ely si ngular? What should we think of poetry (or what of
thought is left in poetry) thar must refuse, sometimes wi th great
(O.sign.iff.? Or, si mpl y, what is a poem "cod-
109 IS such that If fods 10 advance all arremprs to decipher it?
I have been aski ng myself t his question, which I gram is nai"ve,
for a long rime, and especially since readi ng Peter Szondi 's analysis
of"Ou liegst ... ,"8 the poem on Berlin written in 1967 and pub-
lished in SclmfNlrt in 1971; it is, along with twO essays by B!anchor
and by Uvinas published in 1972 in the kttm ("Le
demier a parler" and "Dc I'et re a l'autre"9), among the very few il-
luminating commemari es on Celan. But whereas Blanchor's and
LCvinas's readings remain "gnomic," to recall Adorno's objection to
Heidegger's illlerprctation ofHoldcri inlO-that is, they found their
arguments on phrases lifted from Cclan's poems (his verse contains
many such isolatable bits, as does all "thinki ng poetry")-Szondi 's
analysis is (0 my knowledge rhe only oneil to completely decipher
a poem, down to irs most resistant opacities, because jt is rhe only
one to know what "material" gave rise to the work: the circum-
stances remembered, the places traveled to, the words exchanged,
the siglHS glimpsed or contemplated, and so on. Szondi SCOuts OUt
the least allusion, the slightest evocation. The result is a translation
in which almost nothing is left over; almost, because we must srill
explain, beyond Szondi's delight ar having been present in the right
Two POnlU by Palll Ctlnll
place at the right time, a poetry based on t he exploitation of such
"singularity, " and thus (i.e., in this respect) forever inaccessible to
those who did not init ially wit ness what the poetry transformed
into a very laconic "Story" or a very all usive "cvocation."
The question I have call ed that of idiom is therefore more ex-
actly rhat of singul ariry. We must avoid confusing this with an-
mher, relatively secondary or derivative question, that of the "read-
able" and the "unreadable." My question asks not just about the
"texr," but about the singular txperimu comi ng inro writi ng; it
asks if, bei ng singular, experience can be written, or iffrom the mo- \
ment of writing its very singularir: .i s not forever lost
away in one way or another, at onglll or en route to destl natlon,
by t he very fact of language. This coul d be due to language's im-
possible inrransitiviry, or to the desire for meaning, for universal-
ity, that animates voices divided by the constrai nt of a language
t hat is itself, in turn, only one of many. Is t here, can there be, a
gular experience? A silent experience, absolutel y untouched by
guage, unprompted by even the most slightl y art iculated discourse?
If, impossibly, we can say if singularity exists or subsists
spi te all odds (and beyond all empi rical considerations, the pres-
ence of a witness such as Peter Szondi , for example, or of someone
else who knows), can language possibly take on its burden? And
would idi om suffice for the purpose-idiom of course different
from the facil e "crypting" or refusal to reveal one's point so terri-
bly endemic to the "modern"? These questions pose neither the
problem of solipsism nor that of auti sm, but very probably that of
solitude, which Celan experi enced [Q what we must justly call the
utmost degree.
J retead "Tubingen, January" (a poem with an
date, for jallllar, as if in all usion to Holderli n's
ing manner of dati ng poems during his period); J reread it
as J read it, as I understand it, as J th us can nor but translate it.
This effort is pardy unnecessary because of Marrine Broda's beau-
riful French translation, which to my mind can hardly be im-
proved upon, and from whi ch I will at least borrow the unsurpas-
Ttl/O Pomu by Paul
sable phr.uc with gulls" rrour I de moucttes"),12
But I cannol help translating here. So I rerum, with emendations,
to a rendering I anempted a few years ago whi le working on
Sous un ROl d'cloquence
avcugl6. Jt'S yeux.
cnigme est Je
pur jaill t -, [cur
mcmoi rc:dc
tOurs Holdcrl in nagcam, IOUf-
de moucttes.
Visites de menuisiers submerges sous
paroles plongeam:
vicndrait un homme
vicndrait un homme au monde, aujourd'hui.:lV
la barbc de [umiere des Pauiarches: il n'aurait ,
parlerait-i l de cc
tcmps, il
qu'a bCgaycr. bCgayer
sans sans
sans cesse.
(" Pallaksch.
Beneath a Row of eloquence
blinded. the eyes.
cnigma is the
pure Sprung -, thei r
memory of
Two Pomu by PauL
Holderl in lowers swimming,
wheeled wi th gulls.
Joincrs' visits submcrged bene:lth
diving words:
If thcre C:;Lme
if mcre C:;Lmc a man
if therc C:;Lmc a man inlO Ihc world today, wi,h
thc beard oflighl of thc
Pat riarchs: he would net=d only.
if he spokc of Ihis
time, hc would net=d only
10 stull er, stuncr
without , without
wilhom cease.
What these few, barely phrased phrases say. in their extenuated.
infi rm discourse. stuttering on the edge of silence or the incom-
prehensible (gibberish, idiomat ic language: uPallaksh"), is not a
"srory"; they do nor recount anYlhi ng. and most certainly not a
visit to the HJJldnlillturm in Tubingen. They undoubtedly mean
something; a "message," as it were, is del ivered. They present, in
any case. an intelli gible unerance: if a man, a Jewish man-a Sage,
a Prophet, or one of the Righteous, "with I the beard of light of I
the Pauiarchs,"-wanted today to speak fonh about the age as
Holderl in did in his ti me, he would be condemned to stammer, in
the manner, let us say, of Beckett's "mclaphysical tramps. " He
would si nk into aphasia (or "pure idiom"), as we are told Holdcrlin
did; in any case, Holderl in's came to define the aphasic
Ein Zcichen sind wir, deutungslos
SchmerLlos sind wir und haben F.iSt
Die Sprache in der Frtmdc verloren, '
7illo Poems by Palll ulan
1\ sign we :HC, meaningless
Pai nl CS11 we are and ha\'c nearly
Losl our language in foreign places.
More pre<:isely, we might $,;Iy thaI to speak the age, it would be
enough :or such a rna," to stammer-stun cr; the age belongs 10
srammcnng. to stuUcnng. Or rather, stutl cring is th(' onl y "lan-
guage" o,r the age. The end of meaning- hi ccuping, hailing.
Yct {his message comes second in the poem; it is a lin le like thc
"lesson" or the "moral" of a classic fable; itS presence makes cxplicil ,
wilhi n though sli ghtl y detached from the poem (see the colon 3 1
the end of the second stanza), what the poem says before- what it
says (lSa poem. It is a translation. The idiomatic poem contains its
own translat ion, whi ch is a justification of the idiomali c. Or 31
least, we can formul ate it this way; the problem then becomes
knowing what it explicitl y translates.
I propose to call what it translates "experience," provided that we
both .undemand the word in its stri ct sense-the Lati n tx-pttriri, a
through danger-and especiall y that we avoid associati ng
II wuh what is "lived," the stuff of anecdotes. Erfolmmg, then,
rather than E,kbniJ.
) I say "experi ence" because what the poem
"springs forth" from here- the memory of bedazzlement, whi ch is
also the pure dizziness of memory-is precisely that which did nm
take place. d id not happen or occur during the singul ar cvent that
the rel ates to without relating: the visit, after so many ot h-
ers since the joiner Zimmer's time. to the tOwcr on rhe Neckar
Holderlin li ved wi thout li vi ng for the last thirty-six years of
hIS li fe- half of hi s li fc. A visit in memory of that experience,
which is al so in the non-form of pure non-cvcnt.
I shall try to explai n. \Vhat the poem indicates and shows what
it movcs toward, is irs source. A poem is always wun_
dcrway. " as Meri dian" recalls. 16 Thc path the poem S<.'"Cks to
?pen up here IS. that of its own source. And making its way thus to
ItS own It seeks to reach the gcneral source of poetry. It says,
or 10 say. the "springing forth" of the poem in its possi-
bility, that IS. in its "cnigma. " "An enigma is the pure sprung
Two POttms by Pnul (Linn 19
forth;"17 so speaks thc first verse to the fou rth stall7.a of the hymn
''The Rhine," which in a way is the source here. Holderlin adds:
"Even I T he song may hardly reveal it. " But if the poem says or
trics to say the source in this manner, it says it as inaccessible, or
in any case unrevealed "cven [by] the song, " because in p!ace of the
source, and in a way which is itself enigmatic, there is di7.ziness, the
instant of blindness or bIazziement before the sparkl ing waters of
the Neckar, the fragmenting glitter. the image of the visi tors swal-
lowed up. Or because therc is also the stark reminder (hat precisely
ill this piau, it was revealed 10 so many visitOrs that the source (of
the poem, rhe song) had dried up. And that prcviously it had in-
deed been an enigma that sprang fOrl h.
Dizziness can come upon one; it does not simpl y occur. oTl
rat her, in it, nothi ng occurs. It is the pure suspension of occur-
rence: a caesura or a syncope. T his is what "drawing a
means. 'What is suspended, arrested, ri ppi ng suddenly intO strange-
ness, is the presence of the present (rhe bei ng-present of the pre-
sent). And what then occurs without occurring (for ir is by defini -
lion what cannot occur) is-without being- nothi ngness, [he
"nothing of bei ng" (ntt-rns). Di7.zines.s is an txpmt'nct' of nothing-
ness, of what is, as Heidegger says, "properl y" non-occurrence,
nothingness. Nothing in it is "lived," as in all experi ence. because
all experience is the experience of nothingness: the experience 0[;
diuiness here, as much as the anguish Heidegger describes, or as
much as laughter in Bataille. Or the li ghtning recognition oflove.
As much as all the infin itely paradoxical, "impossible" experiences
of death, of disappearance in the present. How poignant and d iffi-
cult to think that Celan chose his own death (the most fin ite infi-
nite choice). throwing himself into the waters of the Seine.
10 say this agai n in anot her way: there is no "poetic experi ence"
in the sense of a "lived moment" or a poetic "state. " If such a thi ng
exists, or thinks it does- for after all it is the power, or impotence,
of lirer.lfufC to believe and make others believe this-it cannot give
rise to a poem. To a story, ycs, or to discourse, whether in verse or
prose. To "literature," perhaps, at least in the sense we understand
il IOday. But not to a poem. A poem has nothing to recount, noth-
Tiw Poom by Pnul
ing to say; what it rCCOUll lS and says is that from which it wrenches
away as a poem. If we speak of "poetic emotion," we must think
of its cognate bnoi,I8 whose etymology indicne5 the absence or de--
privadon of strength. "A une passante" is nor rhe nostalgic story of
an cncoumer, bUi the entreaty (hat arises from coll apse, the pure
echo of such an imoi, a song o r a prayer. Benj amin hardly dared
S.1Y. though he knew pcrfecrly well, that this is perhaps (2nd I stress
the "perhaps") what ProUSt did not undersrand in understanding
Baudelai re, and probably also what rhe overl y nostalgic Baudelaire
sometimes did not undersrand in understanding hi mself (t hough
he did write the prose poems, which redeem all).I'
BUI the poem's does not want not to say.
A poem wams to saYi indeed, it is nothi ng but pure want ing- to-
say. But pure wanti ng-to-say nothing, nmhingness, that against
whi ch and through whi ch there is presence, what is. And because
nothingness is inaccessible to wanting, the poem's wanting col-
lapses as such (a poem is always involunrary, like anguish, love, and
even self-chosen death); then nothing lets itself be said, the thing
itSelf, and letS itself be said in and by the man who goes to it de-
spite himself, receives it as what cannm be received, and submi ts
to it. He accepts it. trembling that it should refusc; such a strange,
Aeeting, el usi ve "bei ng" as me meaning of what is.
In the end, if there is no such thi ng as "poetic experience" it is
si mpl y because experience marks the absence of what is "li ved."
This is why, stri cdy speaking, we can talk of a poetic aiJullu, as-
suming existence is what at times PUtS in life, rending it to
PUt us beside ourselves. It is also why, given that existence is furti ve
and discontinuous, poems are rare and necessarily brief, even when
they expand to try to stay the loss or deny the evanescence of what
compelled them into being. Further. this is why there is nothing
necessa ril y grandiose about the poeti c, and why it is generall y
wrong to confuse poetry with celebration; one ca n find , in the
most extreme triviality, in insigni fi cance, perhaps even in fri voli ty
(where Mallarme occasionall y lost himself), pure, never-pure
strangeness: the gift of not bing or ofllorhillgcomparable to
the linle token one describes. saying: "Jr 's nothing." Indeed. it is
Tioo Poems by Paul
never not hing, it is lIoth;'Ig; it can as well be pitiable or totall y
wi thout grandeur. terrifying or overwhelmi ngly joyous.
We are tOld that when Holderlin went "mad," he constantly
repeated, " Nothing is happening to me, nothing is happening
to me."
The dimness of existence is what the poem "Tubingen, January"
says. It says it inasmuch as it says itselfas a poem. inasmuch as it
says what arose from, or remains of, the non-occurred in the singu-
lar event it commemorates. " In_occurrence" is what wrenches the ""
event from its si ngularity, so that at the height of singularity. singu-
lari ty itSelf vanishes and sayi ng suddenl y appears-the poem is pos-
sible. Singba," Rm: a singable remainder, as Cclan says elsewhere.20
This is why the poem commemorates. Its experi ence is an expe-
ri ence of memory. The poem speaks of Erhmertmg, but also se-
cretl y call s upon the Andmkm of Holderli n's poem o n Bordeaux,
and the Gediichtnis where H61derlin found Mnemosyne's reso-
nance. The poem was not born in the moment of the
tIInll visit. Properly speaking, it was not born in any moment. Not
only because dizziness or bedazzlement by defi nitio n never consti -
tutes a moment. bur becausc what brings on the dizziness and re-
calls me waters of the Neckar is not those waters. bur another river:
the Holderlinian river itsclf. A double meaning here: first me river.
or ri vers. lhat Holderlin sings (the Rhine, the Ister. the source of
the Danube, etc.). and then the river of Holderlin's poetry. Or, as
I've said. the "Rood of eloquence. n
In "Tubingen, January." the eyes are not in fact blinded; no be-
dazzlement rakes place. They are Zltr BlilldJuit per-
suaded to blindness. BlIt to translate by "persuade," or
"convi nce," does not convey the full sense of jiher and all it con-
tains as a signifi er of overflow. To be iiber"det- I take this on
Michel Deursch's autho rity-is si mpl y "to be taken in," "run eir-
cles around," overwhelmed by a tide of eloquence. Less "taken for
a ride" than "submerged," "drowned," or, mOSt accuratel y, " to be
had." The eyes-the eyes that see Holderlin's tower, the waters of
the Neckar, the wheeling gulls-are bli nded by a Rood of words
Two Pom-u by Palll
or eloquence; the eyes are taken in, and the memory of the river
poem "The Rhine" recalls and calls forth the memory of the dizzi.
ness, the engulfing bedazzlement: that is, as wi th all "involuntary
memory. the memory of "what was neither purposely nor con.
sciously 'lived' by the subject," as Benjamin perfectly demon-
slr:lIcd for Baudelaire using Freud's argument agai nst Ikrgson.
Thus di zziness here indicates the in-occum:nce of which mem-
ory-and not merely recoll ection-is the paradoxical restitution.
The dizziness is memory because all real memory is veniginous,
offering the very atopia of existence. what takes plaa: without tak-
ing place; giving a gift that forces the poem into thanking. into ec-
stasy. This is why the poem is obliged into thoughl: "To think and
thank," says the Bremen speech. "dmkm Iwd dankm. have the
same root in our language. If we follow it [0
A"denktn and Audlle"t we enter the semantic fields of mem.
ory and devotion. "21
Thus. "TUbingen, January" does nO[ say any state of the psyche.
any lived experience of the subject. any Nor is it- this
foll ows logically-a celebration of Holderlin (it comes closer to
saying how Holderlin disappoints). It is definitely 1Iot a "sent i.
mental" poem, whether in Schiller's or the common sense. The
poem says "drowning" in Holderlin's verse. It says it as its "possi.
bility," a possi bility infi nitely and interminably paradoxical, be.
cause it is the possibi li ty of the poem inasmuch as, possible-im.
possible. it says, if not the pure impossi bility, then atlcast the scam
possibili ty of poetry.
Here. according to standard procedure, I should begi n my com.
mentary. Bm I have said I will refrain-not to reject commentary
in and of itself, but lx.'Cluse such commentary, which in any case
would be impossible to complete, would require fur toO much in
the present context. Among other things, one would have to read
''The Rhine," return generally [0 the HoJderiinian themaries of {he
rivcr./dcmi.god. and ask what links the entirety of such thematics
to the possibility of poetry (an), the opening of a sacred space (and
the expectation of a god), the appropriat ion of the own (and the
Two Poems by Paul Celall 2J
birth of a homeland). This would not only require raking Heideg-
gerian commentary inro account- both the one Cclan knew and
the one of which he was ncussarily ignOrantilJ one would still have
to measure, and measure accurately, the myth this commentary
created of Holderlin, tin Die"t" tin Die"hmg, for thought and p0-
etry within and outside Germany. The extraordi nary magnirude of
his task, me immeasurable occurrence he hoped for from poetry,
reduced him to silence, to babbling and stuttering, subject to rhal
harshest constraint of in-occurrence. Subject to its law.
I can only mention al l this as the underpinning ofCelan's poemi
but also, I mUSt immediately add. as that from which, against all
odds, it lifts away, succeeds in lifting. For in the end there is a
poemi in the end there is art, as "The Meridian" says, borrowing a
theme from Buchner: Acb, die K,UlJt!
That is why I will limit mysclfhere to examining this "success."
I will ask onl y this simple question-the question, as it were, of
the si1lgbam- Rest, the singable residue: whar saves this poem from .
wreckage in, and the wreckage of. poetry? How does it happen that .,
in poetry, Out of poetry, al l is not lost, that a possibility of articu
lating something still remains, if only in st uttering, if onl y in an
incomprehensible and incommunicable language, an idiolect or id
iom? (The whole poem, insofar as it succeeds in springing back
from poetic engulfing, is drawn as ifby magnet to the doubl e "Pal
labeh," which, in parentheses, punctuates it definitively, and punc
lUates it thus on Holderlin's ruined words: in this case, a "Swabian"
Greek which evinced, for those who wi tnessed his reclusion, what
Schelling called the "dilapidati on of his mind," and whi ch, along
with (he thirty-odd poems saved from this period, attests-no
matter how we might propose, li ke Bertaux, all possible empirical
decipherings-to the drying up of the poetic source and idiomatic
babbling. Not that this prohibirs the poems from remaining po-
ems. Such, precisely, is the eni gma.)
A moment ago I said "the wreckage in and of poetry." To be en
gul fed in a flood of poetry means [hat poetry itself si nks, drowns,
that irs own overflow dri es in it irs very possibili ty-a source sub
1"illO Poems by Palll Celtlll
merged in Ihe flood ,hal it brought fonh itself, as Holderlin 100
perhaps w:lOted to say when he spoke of the rivers (hat flow back
d I
. .Z.
IOwar I lelr source.
... Dcr scheinet abcr fitsl
Rlikwam zu gehen und
!eh mein, er miissc kommen
Von Osten.
Viek'S ware
Zu sagen davon.
Umsonst nichl gehn
1m Troknen die Strome. Abcr wie? Ein Zeichen brauchl (,s ..
... Yet almosl this rh'er seems
To Irdvd backwards and
I think it must come from
The East.
Much could
Be said about this ....
Not for nothing rivers flow
Through dry land. Slit how? A sign is needed ... n
What poetry sinks into, what drowns poetry, is an eloquence.
But we must make no mistake about eloquence; a "saying tOO
much" is of course at issue, but the "100 much" docs nOI mean
onl y abundance or overabundance ("overflow"); ir means, also, or
fi rsl, eXCeSs ("sayi ng 100 much abolll something"). It is nOt Ihe
word that divulges a secret, but rather, the one that transgresses an
In Hfilderlinian themacics, such a word is mainly tragic, Ihe
word of dbnmm; for example, Anrigone vying and identifying
with the divine. It is the word of infinite desire, desire of the in-fi-
nite and of the One-and-all; it is the word of furor and fusion, so
native and natural to rhe Greeks, those men of the E.1St possessed
by Ihe divine, that all the formal rigor and sobriety of their an was
Two Pomls by Palll Celnll
required to "purify" and contain it; onl y thus could they avoid
burning Ihemsclvcs with "heaven's fire, '" or dizzily losing Ihemsclvcs
in enrhusiasm. Hfilderlin's definition of ,ragedy:
The presentation of Ihe , ragic reslS primarily on the nemendous
(das Ihe god and man mate and how nalUral force
and man's innermost boundlessly unite in wrath-conceiving of it-
self; (rests] on rhe boundless union purifying itself through boundless
But according 10 a logic I cannot derail here, i[ is precisely Ihis
word that Westerners, Hesperians-that is, first of all, Germans-
must find , or rediscover. They who arc naturally sober, or, as
Hfildcrlin says of Oedipus, the hero with a Western destiny, natu-
rall y lacking a god, without furor or desire, "wandering be-
neath the unthinkable." They mUSt rediscover this word, the "sa-
cred pathos," even at [he risk of sinking, of lening themselves go.
Even at the risk of losi ng their innate "clarity of presentation
(Dars/ellrlng)," their sense of proportion-of "neglecting the na-
tive," as the Greeks did in the opposite direction when they insti-
tuted the "empire of arr."2S This was Holderlin's folie abroad, in
France, in Greece, according [0 the myth he himself had forged of
his existence (and of rhe Wesl'S fa te): " I can say what Ihey say of
heroes: I have been muck by Apollo. " It was the fate of Oedipus,
blind for having "an eye tOO many." Both were struck in the ex-
tremity of their eloquence, in their sacred word ("May the sacred
be my word!"), Iheir "too infinite" interpretation of the oracle or
divine signs. In their "madness. "
Madness is, indeed, Ihe absence of artistic production. In turn-
ing away from madness, the Greeks lost themselves in works, in
arriSlic virtuosif)'. If Ihey undergo the trial of madness, Westerners
or moderns risk Ihe inabiliry ro accede ro work, ro artistic sobriety;
and yet in rhis sobriery resides [har which is their own. Proportion
is thus needed, as Holderli n's poems ceaselessly repeal because
Hfilderi in, pressed by madness, knew his poems drew their fragile
possibiliry from this source. Limits are needed: rhe law. The accep-
tance, even rhe aggravation, of finitude. What Holderi in calls loy-
1iuo by Paul
airy. And first. loyalry to the God's "categori cal turning away," [0
his withdrawal, that is, [0 his very obviousness in eternal in-
appcar.lIlcc, the pure appearance of nothing.
... So lange die Freundlichkeit noch am Henen, die Reine, dauert,
missel nicht unglliklich der Mensch sich mil der Gonheil. 1st un-
bckannt Con? 1st er offenbar wie der Himmel? di eses glaub' ich eher.
Des Menschen Maass ists. Voll Verdiensl, doch dichlerisch, wohnel
der Mensch auf dieser Erde.
. . . As long as kindliness, which is pure, remains in his heart not
unhappily a man may compare himself with the divinity. Is Cod un-
known? Is He manifest as the sky? This ralher I believe. II is Ihe mea-
sure of man. Full of acquirements, but poetically, man dwel ls on this
The poem that precedes "Tiibingen, January" in the Nimlilmis-
rose collection, and whose motif gives the collection its lide, is
called "Psalm":
Niemand knetet uns wieder aus Erde und Lehm,
niemand bespricht unsern St2ub.
Gelobt seisl du, Niemand.
Oir 'lulieb woll en
wir bliihn.
Ein Nichls
waren wir. sind wi r, werden
wir bl eibcn, bliihend:
die Nichts-. die
Two Pomu by Paul
dem GrifTel seelenhell ,
dem Staubfaden himmelswilst,
der Krone rot
yom Purpurwort, das wit sangen
tiber, a liber
dem Oorn.
No one moulds us again out of tarth 2nd clay,
no one conjures our dust.
No one.
Praised be yout name, no one.
For your sake
we shall flower.
A noming
we were. are, shall
remain, flowering:
the noming-. the
no one's rose.
With our pistil soul-bright ,
wim our stamen heaven-ravaged,
our corolla red
with the crimson word which we sang
over, 0 over
the thorn.,}O
As o ne of [hose who have undergone the trial of dlmNllff and
risked being engulfed. as o ne of the heroes and (ncar) demi -gods
of Hesperia. "The Rhine" names Rousseau: the Rousseau of the
we suppose, in a pure poem of contained flooding elo-
quence, of 'urittm drowning in enthusiasm. The poem inaugurates
modern lyricism.
7illo Potms by Pllul Ctlllll
... Halbgotter denk' ich jent
Und kennen muss ich di e Teuern,
Wei I ofl ihr Leben so
Die schnend!.' Brust mir bewegel.
Wem aber, wie. Rousseau, dir,
Unubcrwindli ch die 5le
Die starkausdauernde ward,
Und sieherer Sinn
Und sil.sse Gabe"tu horen.
Zu reden so, dass er aus heiliger Folic
Wie der Weingou, lorig gouli ch
Und gesenlos sic di e Sprache der Rei ncslen gibt
Verstandlieh den Guten, abcr mit Recht
Die Achtungsloscn mil Blindheil schlagl
Die elltweihenden Knechte, wie nenn ieh den Frcmdcn?
... Of demigods now I think
And I must know these dear ones
Because of len their lives
Move me and fi ll me with longing.
BUI he whose soul, like yours,
Rousseau. ever strong and patient,
Ikcame invincible,
Endowed with sleadfasl purpose
And a SWCCI gift of heari ng,
Of speaking, so that from holy profusion
Like the fool ishly, divinely
And lawlessly he gives it away,
The language of the purest, comprehensibl e to the good,
But rightl y strikes with blindness the irreverent,
The profaning rabble, what shall I call thai manger?J!
Rousseau, the "Sage, " the "noble spiri t" - to whose tomb, says one
of Holderlin's earli est poems, "the child hurri es ... seized by a great
shi vcr"-imercedcs; he was the first of hi s era who understood how
to grasp a "sign. " the sign from Greece, land of Dionysus: the
Two PomlS by PIlIlI Ctlllll '9
viners) sign'. It was therefore he who opened up ,he possibil ity of
poetry, that is. its prophtticpossibility. The ode entitl ed " Rousseau"
says so thus:
Und Strahlen 2US der schonern Zeit. Es
Haben di e Boten dein Hen. gefunden.
Vernommen hast du sie, ve!Sl2nden die Sprache der
Gedeutet ihre Sccle! Oem Schnenden war
Der Wink genug, und Winke sind
Von Allers her die Spr;l.che der Goner.
Und wunderbar, als harte von Anbeginn
Des Menschen Geist das Werden und Wirken all ,
Des Lcbcns aile Weise schon c: rfahren
Kenm er im eTSu:n Zeichen Vollcndel es schon.
Und fliegl , der kuhne Geist, wie Adl er den
Gewitlern, weissagend seinen
Kommenden Goncm, VOr;l.US.
The radiance of a bener age. The
Heralds who looked for your heart have found it.
You've heard and lhe slrangeTS' tongue,
rheir soul! For rhe yearning man
The him suffi ced, because in hinu from
Time immemorial the gods have spoken.
And marvellous, as though from l he very first
The human mind had known all that grows and move,
Foreknown life's melody and rhythm,
In sc..-ed grai ns he can measure the plant;
And Aies, bold spirit. Ai es as the c2gles do
Ahead of thunderstorms, preceding
Gods, his own gods, to announce their coming.
Such is eloquence: rhe "prophetic tone," or what Holderlin also
calls "eccemric enthusiasm, (another name for "sacred padlos").
In rhe :'time of distress" and the "wo rl d's ni ght ," between, as
Tiro Pot:lm by Paul CelAn
deggcr says, "the ' no more' of gods who have Red and the 'not yet'
of the god to come." the possibi lity of poetry, and with it that of a
world. is ecstasy. And risk; onc may be bested, may si nk or "[Ouch
OOlfol11," as Niensche says, "by way of rhe truth," Si nce rhe fifth
"Promenade, " whose place in (he exact center of the RnNritJ was
determined by Rousseau's death, water has been precisely the
"reveric" of the dizziness that comes, nm from the subject's cxaha-
lion, as rhe reductive intcrpretadon of lyricism always maintains,
but from its loss. or rather from the "forgetting of the self. " 'The
Meridian" again: "Whoever has art before his eyes and on his
mind ... has forgoncn himsel( An produces a distance from the I.
Art demands here a certain distance, a certain path, in a certain
direction. "33
Here, among all possi ble examples, are the last twO sta nzas of
Rimbaud's poem "Mcmoire, " on nostalgia and desire, opens
with "L'eau claire; comme Ie sel des larmes d'enfance, I L'assaut au
soleil des blancheurs des corps de femmes" ("Clear water; like the
salt of chi ldhood tears; I T he assault on the sun by the whiteness
of women's bodies");
Jouet de cer oeil d'cau morne, je n'y puis prendre,
6 ClnOI immobile! oh! bras nop coum! ni I' une
ni I'aulre fleur; ni la jaune qui m'imporrune,
ni la bleue, amie I'cau cou/eur de ccndre.
Ah! la poudre des saules qu'une aile secoue!
Les roses des roseaux des longtemps devortcs.!
Mon ClnOl, roujour "lie; et sa chaine tiree
Au fond de cet ocil d'cau sans bords,-;\ queUe boue?
Toy of this sad eye of water, I cannot pluck,
o mOlionle.s.s boat! 0 arms tOO short, either Ihis
Or the other flower; ncirher the yellow one which bothers me
There, nor the friendly blue one in the ash-colored water.
Ali! dust of the willows shaken by a wing!
The roses of the reeds devoured long ago!
My boat still stationary, and its chain caught
In the bOllom of this rimless t'}'e of water-in whll mud?.M
Two PomlS by Paul Celnll 3'
Bm Celan's d izziness has a compl etd y different meaning. if only
because it is d iz.z.iness at the sight of the diz.z.incss just dcscribed-
a diz.z.i ness all suond degrt, as it were. BUI that does not mean it is
lesser, or simulated.
Celan, li ke Oedipus-the blind man, the "poor stranger" in
Greece-is athtos. This certainly does nO( mean "atheist"; "Praise be
10 you, no one" is a true prayer. Oedipus-bm Oedipus without
the slightest hope of reruming 10 Colonus, of the Eumenides's sa-
cred wood, of a call originating elsewhere, among the bushes or in
the earth, to respond ro the prayer and grant it. To signal "all is
done," the sin (wi thout sin) is expiated, the suffering is drawi ng to a
dose, persecmion can no longer take place. For Celan. an exile,
sccution was without possible remission-and what persecution,
compared [0 that of the royal phnrmakos. It was unforgettable and
indelible; Auschwin, the purely uunthinkable," had ushered in for
all time a "time of distress" that no hope of a god could still buttress.
The time of d istress is the time- now our history-of what
Holderlin also called pain (both and Leidm), the word
that runs through both "In Lovely Blueness" and modern lyricism,
from Baudelaire to Trakl and Mandelstam. Pain, which is nOt
acdy suffering, affects and {ouches man's "hean"; it is what is most
intimate in hi m; the extreme interi or where, in his almost absolute
singulariry (his ab-solutcness), man-and not the subj ect-is pure
he is hope of .. dialogue, of a way out of
tude. I again cite 'The Meridian";
But I think- ... I think rhat it has always belonged to the expecta-
tions of rhe poem in precisely this manner to speak in the cause of the
strange-no, I can no longer use this word-in precisely this manner
to speak in tlu of an O,lur-who knows, perhaps in the cause
of a wholly 0,/)"".
This "who knows, " at which I see I have arri ved, is the only thing I
can add- on my own, here, tOday- tO the old expectations.
Perhaps, I must now say 10 myself-and at Ihis point I am making
use of a well-known term-perhaps it is now possible to conceive a
meeting of Ihis Other" and an which is not f.u
moved, which is very near.
Two Poems by Prill! Celnn
The poem tarri es. StopS to catch a scent-like a crealUre when Con-
fromed wilh such thoughts.
No Olle C',lJl say how long the pause in breath- the thought and the
slOpping 10 catch the seem-will ian ....
The poem is alone. h is alone and underway. Whoever writ es it
Illust rem;!.in in ilS company.
But doesn't the pctI!m, for precisely thai reason, ;1.[ this point panic-
ipatc in an encounter-in tiN mJlury o/an mcoullur?
The poem wanlS to reach the Other, it needs the Other. it needs a
vis vis. h it oU[ and addres.se!l it.
II becomes dialogue- it is often despairing dialogue. lS
From that place, thaI sol irude-pai n-Celan speaks. It is the
same solilUde and pain {hat Holderl in felt ill [he end, when he
had succumbed to t he excess of eloquence and been submerged,
reduced to sil ence, by sacred pathos. "Tii hi ngen, January" is a
poem to this pain and soli tude beeause it is the poem of this pai n
and ofrhis so[i rude; that of always being thrown back from the di-
alogue one had thought possi ble and then, in withdrawal, "hud-
dling, " as Heidegger says of H6lderlin, no longer able to speak;
stuttering, swall owed up in idiom. Or fall ing sil ent. In a world
with nothi ng and 110 Ollno authorize or even "guarantee" the least
dialogue, the slightest rd ati on to anomer, however or whoever he
may be, how to wre nch away fro m aphasia, from silence? The
poem, says Celan, once again in "The Meridian," "today ...
shows a strong incl inati on tOwards falling silent. ... It takes its
position ... at the edge of itself; in order to be able to exist, it
wit hout interrupt ion calls and fe tches itself from its now- no-
longer hack illlo its as-always. "..16
The question of poetry's poss ibil ity-and Celan never asked
anot her- is the question of the possibiliry of such a wrenchi ng.
The question of the possibiliry of going Ollt oftlu ulf This also
means, as "The Meridi an" again recall s, goi ng "outside t he hu-
man," in the sense, for example (but is this still just OfU example?)
that rhe (fi nit e) n anscendcnce of Daseill in the experience of
nothingness, in ek-sistcnce, is a going outside the human: " Here
we have stepped beyond human nature, gone outwards, and en-
Tll/o Pomu by Pmt! Celn1l JJ
tercd a mysteri ous realm, yet one turned towards Ihat which is
It woul d be an understatement to say Cdan had read Heideg-
ger. Celan's poetry goes beyond even an unreserved rt."COgnition of
Heidegger; I t hink one can assen that it is, in its entirery, a dia-
logue with Heidegger's thought. And essentiall y with the part of
this thought that was a dialogue with H6lderlin's poetry. Withour
Hcidegger's commcmary on Holderlin, "Tilbingen, January" would
have been impossible; such a poem could si mply never have been
written. And it would certai nly remain incomprehensible if one did
not detect in il a Ttsponu to this commentary. Indeed, the dizzi ness
on the edge of Holderl inian pathos is JUSt as much di zziness vis-a-
vis its amplificati on by Heidcggcr; vis-a-vis [he beliefin whi ch Hei-
degger persisted, whatever his sense of "sobriety" in other matters.
A belief, not onl y in the possibili ty that the word H61derlin "kept
in reserve" might still be heard (by Germany, by us), but also, and
perhaps especiall y, in the possi bility that the god this word an-
nounced or prophesied might come. This, even though Heidegger
maintained until the end, up through the last interviews granted
to D" that it was also necessary to o:pcct, and prepare for,
the definitive decline or in-advent of the god. "Praise be to you, no
(In me same way, "Psalm" is indecipherable without Heidegger's
medi tati ons on nothingness; it is the prayer horn of them. It is in-
decipherable without the pages of Priflcipk of Reasoll, Sl1tz vom
Crt/lid, prompted by Leibniz's quest ion: "Why is there something
rat her than not hing?" These are pages belli on saying the abyss
of being or presence: the Ab-grlwd and VII-grund, the without-
grounds and the non-ground; they recall Angel us Sil esius's famous
phrase: "The rose is without a why. blooms because it blooms.")}8
A dialogue li ke this in no way requires an encounter- an "effec-
rive" encounter, as we say. Probably the opposite. The encounter is
also that which can prohibi t or break off di alogue. Dialogue, in this ,;.-
sense, is fragi liry itself.
liuo Ponm by Paul Critm
Yet belWcen Cclan and Heidegger, an eDcoumcuook place. It
happened in 1967. probably dI ring the summer. Celan went to
visil I-I eidc."gger in Todt naubeI'F. in the Black Forest chalet (Hiiflr)
Ihat was his refuge, the place w.ere he wrote. From [his mec:ting-
to which I know there were wimesses. direct or indirect-there re-
mains a poem: a second versicn of which. in conclusion. 1 invite
you to read.
Here is how I hear it:
Arnica. baull'X: des yeux, [a
gorgee a Ia fOHaine avec
[e jet d'clOi[oau-dessus.
dans [e
la, dans Ie livJe
--de qui, les lams qu'i l ponait
avant Ie mien'-.
dans ce livre
la ligne ttritesur
un espoir, aupurd' hui,
dans Ie mot
a venir
d' un penseur,
au coeur.
humus des bcis, non ap[ani,
orchis et ordis, epars,
erudit e, plus rard, en voiture,
disti ncte,
qui nous condui t, I' homme,
a son Ccoute
frayees Ics sen:es
de rondins d:m la fange,
Ttuo Pomu by Paul CrimI
Arnica, eye balm, the
at the fountain with
the of stars above. .
in the
there. in the book
-whose. the names it bore
before mind-
in that book
the [inc wrincn about
a hope. today,
in the coming
of a thinker,
in the heart .
woodland humus. unlevelled,
orchis and orchis, scattered,
crudeness, later, in the car.
distinct ,
he who drives us, the man,
listening 100,

dea.red the paths
of logs in the mire,
My uanslation is very rough; wimess or not. who can know what
the allusions refer to? "Todtnaubcrg" is really barely a poem; a sin-
gle nominal phrase, choppy, distended and elliptical , unwilling to
take shape, it is nm the outline but the remainder- me residue-
of an aborted narrative. It consists of brief nOtes or nO[3(ions, seem-
ingly jotted in haste with a hope for a future poem, comprehensible
only to the one who wrol'e them. h is an extenuated poem, or, to
7i(JO PO{'IJIS by Paul CrulII
pm it belief. :l disaPl!!!.illlrd one. It is the poem of a
... mem; as such. il is. and it says, rhe disappointment of poetry.
One could of course suppl y a gloss, try 10 deci pher or translate.
'111crc is no lack of readable allusions. The for example;
here they are no longer ways through the forcst tOward a possible
clearing, a LidJhmg, but in a marsh where the poem itsd.(.
gets lost.(watcr agai n. bur without a source-nor even; dampness-
no morc ahom the dizzying Neckar. the "spirit of the river," the
beda7.z.1emem.cngulfmem. Only an uneasi ness). Another example:
onc could pick, or cast, as it were, the image of the spray of stars
above the man drinking from the fountain, throwing back his head
to the sky: di ce (hrown like the "golden sickle" abandoned by Hugo's
"harvester of eternal summer." And this could be a gcsture tOward
Buchner's Lenz, the fi gure of me poet, of whom "The Meridian" re-
calls, "Now and then he experi enced a sense of uneasiness bec.1use
he was not able to walk on his head,"39 only to add, "Whoever walks
on his head, ladies and gentlemen, whoever walks on his head has
\ heaven beneath hi m as an abyss. "'0 An echo, perhaps, of Holderlin's
mange proposition: .. Man kann auch in die Hohe folk", so wie in
di e Tiefe ("One em as well aU in One
could surely go very fit r in this direction, as in many another.
But that is not what the poem says, if indeed it is still a poem.
What the poem says is, first, a language: words. German, with
Greek and Lati n woven in. "Common" language: AlIgmfTOJI, \'(11/d.
waU1J, HochmooT, and so on. "Lcarned" language: Amika, Orchis.
Bur still simple, ordinary words. The kind of words in another of
Cclan's few explanatory prose texts, "Conversation in the Moun-
rains" (a son of tale, halfway between Lmz and HtlJJidic Tnln, where
two JL"WS discuss language); words like "turk's--cap lily, " "corn-salad,"
and "diallllmJ the maiden-pi nk," that bespeak a native re-
l:uion to nature (o r to the eanh, as Heidegger woul d have said):
So it was quiet, quiet up [here in the mounrains. BUI il was not
qui el for long, bcrause when a Jew comes along and nK"Cts another, si-
lence cannot lasl , even in the mountains. Because Ihe Jew and natUre
:Ire strangers 10 each olher, have always been and st ill are, even today,
even here.
"j;uo Ponm by Paul Ctlnll 37
So there they are. the cousins. On the left, the tUrk's-cap lily
blooms, blooms wi ld, blooms like nowhere el se. And on the right.
corn-salad, and dianthus lup"bus, the maiden-pink, not far ofT. But
they, those cOllsins, have no eyes, alas. Or, more exactly: they have,
even they have eyes, but with a veil hanging in frOIll of them, no nOI
in frolll , behind them, a veil. No sooner does an image en-
ler than it gets aught in the web ....
Poor lily, poor corn-salad. There they stand, the cousins, on a road
in the mountains, the n ick sil ent , the stones silem, and the si lence no
silence at aU. No word has come to an end and no phrase, it is nothing
but a pause, an empl}' space between the words, a blank ...
Once again, a matter of blindness or half-blindness (" they ...
have no eyes, alas"). But because blindness, blinding-we under-
stand now-is space bmuren the words (and doubtless also
(/ blank): nm having the words to say what is. Words are not in-
nate; language is nOt altoget her a mother tongue (or a fa ther
tongue-it hardly matters) . There is di fficul ty wi th it (t here is also
perhaps a question of plnce in language).
This difficul ry-tht' difficul ty-is named in the Bremen address
when it evokes. as Blanchot says, "t he language through whi ch
death came upon him, those near to him, and mill ions of Jews and
non-Jews. an wilhoul (my
Only one thing remai ned reachable, dose and secure amid all losses:
language. Yes, language. In spire of everything, it remained secure against
loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terri-
fying silence. through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It
went through. It gave me no words for what was happening. but went
through it. Went through and could resurface, 'enriched' by it all.
In this language I tried, during those and the years aner, to
write poems: in order to speak, to orielll myself, to find out where I
was, where I was goi ng, to chart my realil)'.
It meam movement, you see, something happening, being m roMe,
an attempt to find a direction.'"
What "Todmauberg" speaks about, then. is thi s: the language
in which AuschwirL was pro nounced, and which pronounced
Two Porms by Palll CrimI
That is why the poem also says, and says simply, rhe meaning of
the encounter with Heidegger- that is, its disappointment. I sus-
pected as much, bm I confess that I was told [his, by a friend who
had it on rhe best aumority.
To Heidcggcr the thinker- the Gcrman thinker-Cdan me
poet-the Jewish poet-came with a single yet precise entreaty:
th.u the thinker who listened to poetry; the same thinker who had
compromised himself. however briefly and even if in the least
shameful way, with JUSt what would result in Auschwin; the
thinker who. however abundant his discussion with National S0-
cialism, had observed total silence on AuschwirL. as histOry will re-
call ; that he say JUSt a single word: a word about pain. From there.
perhaps, all might still be possible. Not "life, n which is always pos.
sible, which remained possible. as we know. even in Auschwin, but
existence, poetry, speech. Language. That is, rel ati on to others.
Could such a word be wn:nchrd?
In the summer of 1967 Celan writes in the guestbook of the
Hiiru in Todtnauberg. He no longer knows who signed before
him; signatures- proper names, as it happens-maner little. At is.
sue was a word, juSt a word. He writes- what? A line, or a verse.
Hc asks only for the word, and the word, of course, is not spoken.
Nmhing; silence; no one. The in-advent of me word ("the event
without answer").
I do not know what word Celan could have expected. What
word he felt would have had enough force to wrench hi m from the
threat of aphasia and idiom (in-advent of the word). imo which
this poem. mumbled against the silence, could only sink as if into
a bog. What word could suddenly have constitutcd an nJrm.
I do not know. Yet something tells me it is at once the humblcst
and most difficult word to say, me one [hat requires, precisely, "a
goi ng our of the self. " The word that the WCSt, in irs pathos of re.
dcmpt ion, has never been able to say. The word it remains for us
to learn 10 speak, lest we should sink ourselves. The word pardoll.
Cdan has placed us before this word. A sign?
Remembering Dates
Ptrh:lps Oil(' can say tlut ('Very poem h:l.S its
-10th of J:lnu:lry-? l'rrh:lps tht novc:lty of poems
th:ll :lre written to(by is to Ix found in precisdy
this point; th31 here the attempt is most clearly
madt to rem:li n mindful of such dates.
-The Meridi:ln"
I Catastrophe
"Tiibi ngen, Janua ry": the Palriarchs' bea rd of li ght. the stam-
mering. Might it not be, asks A. R., an all usion to Moses?1
Not for a momem had I thought of this. But rereading pages de-
voted as if despi te themselves to me oedi pal motif of blinding, as I
had to today, I became aware [hat rhey may indeed secretl y have
only one object: dl C interdiction against representation; or rather,
they are haunred solel y by the unfigurable or unpresentable. They
are fundamentally overwhelmed. more or less unwittingly, by me
destruction of metaphor or image that seems to draw in Celan's po-
Clry as its final conquest. "TUbingen, January" shatters an image
{the refl ection}; "Todtnauberg," a p<Kffi about the disappointment
of poetry. no longer contains any image, unless it is-this should
be checked. supposi ng it could be- the:: "starred di e::," the:: "Srern-
wii rfel" of the thi rd stanza. The:: extenuati on, one might say, of the
"The Me:: ridian," appropriately, provides some explanati on of
Appropri ately, because the ti rl e itself, o r more precisel y, the
word, when it make::s its appearance in the course of the speech,
does not do so wi thout crossing or intersecting, withom "encoun-
tcring" a cenain Wire on trOpcs and (the) tropics. On the plural of
"Trope" : " Tropf!II. " Virt ually the last words arc:
Rnllembering Dales
wdics and gcndcmcn. I find something whi ch offers me some conso-
I:llioll for havi ng mvefed Ihe impossi ble path, this path of the impos-
sible. in yOll r presence. I lind somet hing which binds and which, like
Ihe poem. leads to an enCOUni cr. I find something. like language, abo
nrJCI. yel e:lrl hl y. terresuial , something circular, which Inverses both
poles :md returns fO itsdf, thereby-I am happy to report-even
crossing the tropics and HOpes. I find ... a mrridian.1
The "tropic." (hen. On the "dialogue" Ihat is the poem, a dialogue
with bei ngs bUI also with things, we can read:
When we speak with things in this manner we always find ourselves
faced with the question of thei r whence and whither: a question which
Mremai ns open" and nO! come to an end, " which poinr.s into
openness, emptiness, freedom- we are outside, al a comiderable
The poem, I believe, also seeks this place.
The poem?
The poem with its images and tropes?
Ladi es and gentlemen, what am I really speaking or. when, from IhiJ
direction, in IhiJdircaion, with tht'St"words, I speak of the poem-no,
of poem?
I am speaking of the poem which does not exist!
The absolute poem-no, it does not exist, it cannot exist.
But each real poem, even the least pretentious, contains this in-
escapable question, this incredible demand.
And what , then, would the images be?
That which is perceived and [0 be perceived one time, one time
over and over again, and only now and only here. And the poem
would then be the place where all HOpes and metaphors arc developed
ad absurdum. (199; 37- )8; 78-79)
How should we undemand this?
To even begin to see our way clear, we must consider thi ngs
from a greater distance.
Tht' poe m, Ccla n had sai d earli er- this is my point of depa r-
ture- the poem is alone: " Das Gedicht ist einsam" (198; 87; 7
"Alone" is a word that says singularity_or al leasl, il makes
sense here except in reference to singulariry, to the si ngular expen-
c:ncc. "The poem is alone" means a poem is o nl y efficliwly a poem
insoF.u as it is absolutely singular. This is undoubtedl y a definition
of poetry's essence (which by itself is not at all "pocti c") : there is
no poctry, poetry does nO[ occur or rake place. and is therefore not
ft'peatedly questio ned. except as the event of singularity.
In a way. t he eff'on to say t his singularity, or at least designate it.
underlies t he whole " Meridian" speech-and is always on me verge
of breaking throu gh. Circumstances d ictated t hat t hi s effort .be
directed to a debate or discussion. an Ausei1lnlldenetzu"g with
T he locus of the discussion is the questi on of art. More precisely,
the quest ion of art in relation to l>OCtry. Jean Launay circumscribes
Ihe issue in t hese terms:
Art is a st ranger to poetry- thai is, al first, at the time to which the
poet'S mood always returns when he despairs or hopes tOO And
t hen an is poetry's stranger; an is for j>lXtry. It mdlcates
the possibility of it indicates a window; it invites one t?
jump. This is also why, in art, there is always the hubbub a carni-
val, the drumroll an artist's jXrformancc, that IS:
more or Ir:ss that "death-defying which, barring a foolish accI-
dent. always ends well .
The artist lands on his feet . That is what makes him an artist.
T his is certainly nOt incorrect, in any case from the point of view
of "theme, " as Launay says when justifYing comparisons of Celan
with Kafka and Egon Friedel J.' BUI one sees it is also a complete.
preorganized response: the question Celan bears wi th hi m and tries
to art iculate, literally out of breat h, no longer resonates. T hus Lau-
nay does not entirely do justice to the way Celan t.o
road followed , to t he d iffi cult (if not completely Impossible)
journey; nor [0 Celan's precise but complex strategy vis-a-vis Buch-
nct. And above all. dinkcticnlly re-treati ng the oppositi on berween
art and poet ry, reducing the strange [0 the fascinati ng by means of
a gcnit ive and ap propriating it as such (an is poet ry's st ranger),
Remembering DnuI
rakes into :JCCOtiOi neither singul ariry itself. nor poetry as Celan
desperafely seeks to understand it .
What docs 'The Meridian" actually say?
Not. exactly, that art is a stranger ro poetry, but that yes, poetry
is the interruption of art. Something, if you will, that "taka art 's
breath away" (I am thinking of the motif of Atmltllde, of tum-
of-breath,' which makes its first appearance in Celan here). Or, to
rt"C..Il another of Celan's words, me "$lep" (Srbritl) outside art; in
French one could say. closely foll owing Derrida's reading of Blan-
chot, k pm-dan or k PIlI- "de I'an. "" The event of poetry (and as
such, poeuy isevcnI, and there is poetry) is thus a "setting free," a
"FnisetzulIg" (194; 34; 75) It is a li beration, nm in the sense, com-
mon in German, of dismissal, bur in the sense of deliverance. And,
as we shall see, in the sense of free acti on. This is perhaps, in a
phrase I leave to i{s own ambigui ty, an liberation. And very prob.
ably, a certain kind of "cnd of an."
But the idea that poetry occurs in this manner, when art gives
way, and that the poem is said to be "itselr when it is "an-less" or
"anfrcc" (196; )5; 76), docs nm mean merely that for poetry, art is
a form of supervision or oppression. Nor even that an is, st rictly
speaking, the alienation of poetry. Certainl y, art is "strange"
(fomd). One can thus caU it "other, " but Celan prefers to say that
it is elsewhere or distant, {hat it is distant and elsewhere
(195; 35; 75) Yet in reaJity, an is only so because it is fi rst uncanny,
Imh(!;m/ich: strangely fami liar, or, in other words, disorienting, un.
usual. disquiet ing. Art is even the Disquieting, as such: dlls VII-
its strangeness or alterity is thus not a pure alterity. Nor
is it a "determinate" aherity in the sense that Hegel speaks of "de-
terminate negation. " In relation to a "same" or to a "self," to a
"ncar" or to an "own, "8 an exists in a strangeness which is itself
strange, anmher alterity. The difference it makes differs from itself;
it is unassignable. For this reason it is disqui eting rather than "fas.
cinal ing." It could not be fasci nating unless it occupi ed its own
place. excrcised attraction in a panicular direction. But that is just
Ihe point: art has no place of its own. Indeed, there is nothi ng one
can call art proper, properly itself. Without a stable idellliry, pre-
CAlaJtroph(! 45
sent everywhere but always elsewhere (<:elan says that "it possesses,
:Iside from its ability to uansform, the gift of ubiquity" (190; 31;
-tl), it is not "poetry's stranger." Moreover, this is why. if the task
or deslination of poetry is to li b<:rate itself from art, this task or
destination is nearly impossible. One is never done with art.
h is clear ulan's discourse on an has to do with mimesis. This
much should be nmOO. So should the choice of ulIluimUcll (or its
equivalent: the word used by HBlderlin, then Heideg.
ger, to translate the Greek which Sophocles names the
essence of uchn(! in Antigolle. For Heidegger, art and the work of
art are equall y ulIluimUch. Celan was no doubt fully aware of
this-one respect (though certainly not t he only one) in which
"The Meridian" is a response to Heidegger. Yet I think it would
be more enlightening for a readi ng of the speech (and for the
quest ion I am asking) to focus on art in the expli cit debate with
Thus defined as Imluim/ich, art is indeed, initially, art as Buch
ncr understands it, or rather as he contests it: artifice and the ani
ficial. It is the marionette or puppet Camille Desmoul ins de
nounces in DIl1/tollS Tod: can Stt the rope hanging down that
jerks it, and ... t he joints creak in five footed iambics at every
step"; it is the monkey in Woyuck, dressed in coat and trousers, or
the robots in UOllCt! ,wd Ul111, announced "i n a pompous tone" as
MnOlhing but art and mechanism, nothing bm cardboard and
watch springs" (188; 30; 69). In this sense, Launay is right to evoke
barkers, circuses, and carnivals. But with literature and poetry, with
the DichNlIIg that is Buchner's busi ness, art is really also ... elo
quence, once again. Yet this rime it is bombast and turgi dity:
gra ndiloquence, with its inevitable effects of dlja-mtmdll and a
repetitive. wearisome aspect. An , says Celan, is an old problem
("hardy, longl ived ... that is to say, eternal"), a "problem whi ch al-
lows a monal, Camill e, and a person who can be understood only
in the context o f his deat h, Danton, to string words together at
great length. It is easy enough to talk about art" (188; 30; 69)
Yer this kind of determinat ion is not enough: it assigns art toO
easi ly, appropriates {he rapidly (and in an entirely
classical mode. with marionenes, robots, and an ificial bombast).
This is why, for Celan, an remains what Buchner himself opposes
[Q an thus understood, Namely-according [Q that most ancient,
indeslructible model-the natural. Creati on, as Camille says in his
great speech on art: "[ The people] forger God himself, they prefer
his bad imita[Qf$,"" So art is simply nature once one rakes pains to
imitate it. That is, once nature presents a spectacle. enters the real m
of representation-in shon , when it al igns itself wi th an. Thus the
tableau of the (WO girls in the valley that Lenz evokes when he
speaks of art and defi nes his (or ramer Buchner's) poeti cs: "At times
one would like to be the Medusa's head so as to be able [Q trans-
form such a group infO stone, and call out to the people so that
mey might see" (191-92; 32; 69). Celan comments on these lines in
me foll owing terms: "Ladies and gentlemen, please take note: 'One
would li ke [Q be the Medusa's head,' in order to comprehend that
which is natural as that which is namral, by means of art!" (192, 32;
72). And he adds, a li tde further on, "As you can sec, whencver art
makes an appearance ... [the] pompous rone cannot be ignored"
('92; 33; 73)
Behind Buchner's Len2 stands Buchner himself. But behind
Buchner. there is me historical (li terary hisrorical) Lenl., "Reinhold
Lenz, the author of the 'Notes on the Theater. '" Behind him, in
rum. the Abbe Mercier, with his phrase" Elargissnlim." That this
was naturalism's mOt d'ordn and contains "me social and political
roots of Buchner's thought" (191; 32; 71), is scarcely importam here.
BUI in its most general sense, torn from historical inscription and
COllleXt , Elargissnl'art tells the very secret of art; it indicates art's
movement-and the obscure will presiding over this movement,
or animati ng it from wi thin. Art wants to expand irself; it clamors
to be expanded. It walliS its difference from the things and beings
of nature effaced. In a way, rhat which is art's own, "proper" to art
I (to the Ullluimlic/u), is the tendency to mitigate differcntiation,
and in so doing invade and contami nate everythi ng. Or mediate
everythi ng, according to Lell2 Buchner's dialectical formulation
(nature is only nature by means of art). Thus, to "dis-own" cvery-
thing. Art is, if the word can be risked, generalized, never-ending
Medusa's head, the robots, the specches-
without end.
When he brings up this theme, Ce.lan knows he is echoing very
ancient "rumors" about an. So ancient that they precede even the
(platonic) philosophical designation of mimnu. and its execution
or appropriation as representati on, reproduction, semblance, or
simulation. As imitation. And Ce:lan not only acts as an echo, say-
ing he "listens to the noise persistentl y" (192; )); 73). bur seems to
lend it a favorable ear, bringing back, along wi th the rumors, the
old fear and condemnation of the mimetic (which can be, and has
been, conjoined wit h the interdiction against representation). Al l
Heideggcr's strength is required-and even that may not suffice-
to dissipate the evil aura of the U"Juimlic/u, to lift the harmful and
demonic to th.e level of the "dacmonic."'o Not si mpl y to succumb,
opposing it-in the end, dialecticall y-to the
the Zuhausl!, even the Hl!imkl!hr, to all the fi gures and values of the
own, the fa miliat, the "at home," me native land, and so on-the
way Celan seems to do when, near the end of "The Meridian." he
marks the close of the poetic journey as "EiluArt "A
kind of homecoming" (201; )9; 81).11
And it is true that for poetry, what Ce.lan opposes or seems to
oppose to the to art (at least "at first," as Launay
would say), is. under various names, the own-me own-being: the
or "I," even the "he" of singulari ty (he, Lenz, Lenz himself,
and nOt "Buchner's Len2'"), the "person" Ce:lan also curi ously calls
the "figure" ("Gmalt") (194; 14; 74) Or, to use a word which,
though borrowed from Buchner, does not lack reli gious resonance,
the "creature" (197; 36; 77). Nevertheless, despite appearances, it is
not simply the subject in the metaphysical sense that is at issue.
One word condenses all these names: rhe human, dllJ MmschlicJu.
The human, not man. And nOt the humanity of man. But the hu-
ma n as what all ows rhere to be one man or another-that man
there, si ngula r- in the here and now, says Celan. The human,
then, as the singular essence (a pure oxymoron, philosophicall y un-
tenable), the singulari ty of man or of being-man. It is Camille in
Rnnembering Dmrs
Tbe Drl1lb of DII/IIOn, as Lucile perceives him when he discoursa
on afl and she docs not listen (Q what he says, bUi hears him. him
panicularl y. for "language is something personal. something
ccptible" (189; 31; 70) . Or rather. we suspeCt, it is Lucile herself,
"1Iv;: one who is blind to an" (189; 31; 70) but who still "perceives"
(I wjlJ return to this word).
The Ullbrimlicbr, estrangement, is estrangemcm of the human
taken in this sensc. It affectS existence, undoes its reality. The Un-
brimlicbr. despite what Ctlan's formulations imply, does not open
up an otlur domai n. It takes us "oUiside rhe human" (192; 31.; 7
but opens up a domain "rurned toward that which is human." Ex-
istence itself, but "made strange": "the human feels out of place
[llllbeimlicbJ" (192; 32; 72). Life in an or in light of an , life in the
preoccupation with an - even more simply, li fe benumbed and
carried off by an , what I would call li fe in mi mesis or rcprcselHa-
tion, is the life in which olle "forgets onesel f" (193; 33; 73) . The re-
sult is that Lenz gets lost in his speeches (on literature) . that
Cami ll e and Damon "SpoUi grand phrases" all the way (Q the scaf-
fold. And that the Revolution is theater. Again, the motif of elo-
quence. And dramatizat ion.
But in reality. eloquence precedes dramatization and provides a
reason for it: theater and theatricalized existence only flre because
there is discourse. Or rather, diuOIming. This means lhat the Un-
brimlichr is essentially a matter oflanguage. Or that language is the
locus of the UIIJJrimlichr, if indeed such a locus exisu. In other
words. language is what "estranges" rhe human. Not becausc it is
rhe loss or forgetting of the singular, since by defi nition language
embraces general ity (this is a frequenr refrain, and an old motif de-
rived from so-called philosophies of exi stence); but because to
speak. to tet oneself be caught up and swept away by speech, to
Irust language. or even, perhaps, to be content to borrow it or sub-
mit to it , is to "forget onesel f. " Language is not the UII JuimliclJr.
though only language contains the possibili ty of the
But the UllluimlidJr appears, or rather, sets in {and no doubt it is
always. already there)-something turns in man and displaces the
human, something in man even ovenurns,l l perhaps, or turns

.I round, expulsing him from the human- along with a certain pos-
lUre in language: the "artistic" poSture, if you will . or the mimetic.
That is, the most "natural" posture in language, as long as one
thi nks or pre- u.ndersrands language as a mimeme. In the infinit e
cross-purposes of the "artistic" and rhe "natural," in linguist ic mis-
prision, the is, f-i naUy. forgetfulness: forgening who
speaks when I speak, which clearly goes with forgett ing to whom I
speak when I speak. and who listens when I am spoken to. And,
.llways thus prompted, forgetting what is spoken of.
The motif of forgetfulness and turnaround (reversal) indicates I
here that the Unlu imlic/u, because of language, is the catastrophe
of the human. 13 And this explains that poetry- what Celan calls
poetry or tries to save with the name of poetry. removing and pre-
serving it from art- is, "every t ime." the interruption oflanguage:
Lucile's absurd "Long live the King!" (189i 31i 70) cried out in de-
spair over Camill e's death. and above all Lenz's "terrible sil ence"
(193; 3S; 76). The sil ence that fragments Buchner's narrati ve, StOpS
it (and StopS art, incl uding naturalism), but which already eni g-
mat ically signaled its presence in a phrase (wit hout grandilo-
quence) that says the cataStrophe's most secret essence: "now and
then he experienced a sense of uneasiness because he was nO[ able
10 walk on his head" (195; 34i 75).
The interruption of language, the suspension of language. the
caesura r counter-rhyrhmic said Holdcrlin)14-that is p<>-
ct ry, then. "I Robbed) . .. of breath and speech," the "turn" of
breath. the "rum at the end of inspiration" (195i 33i 76). Poetry oc-
curs where language. contrary to all expectations, gives way. Pre-
ciselyat inspiration's failing-and this can be understood in at least
two senses. Or, even more precisel y, at retai ned expiration, the
breath-holding: when speaking (discoursing) is about to continue, -It'
and somrollr, suddenly free. forbids what was to be said. When a
word occurs in the pure sllspension of speech. Poetry is the spasm
or syncope of Holderlin call ed t he caesura "t he pure
word. "' 6
Would il see m, then, that poetry is appropriat ion. of speech,
and, indissociably. of the human? Yes, in a sense. And would this

mean that poetry is properly speech, because speech attes[S to the
"presence of tile human"? Yes, again; thi s is indeed what
when he comments o n Lucile's "Long li ve [he King!" which he
calls- not wit hout philosophical and political ri sk-a "counter_
word" (Gegmwort ):
After all the words spoken on the platform (t he scafTold)- what a
It is a counter-word, a word thai severs the t hai refuses 10
bow before the "loiterers and parade horses of history. It is 2n act of
frttdom. It is a Stcp.
To be sure, it sounds like an expression of all egiance to the ancien
rigimc- and that might not be a coincidence, in view of what I am
venturing to say about the subject now, today. BUI these words-
pl ease all ow one who also grew up wi th the writings of Pelt:r
KropOikin and GUStav Landauer expressly to emphasize t he point-
t hese words are nOi a cel ebrati on of the monarchy and a past which
should be preserved.
They are a tribUi e to the majesty of the absurd, which bears witness
to mankind's here and now.
That, ladies and gentlemen. has no universall y recognized name.
but it is, I believe ... poetry. (189-90; }I ; 70)
We should not be too qui ck- let us use Celan's own political
clarification as a model-to suess the undeni able philosophical
overdeterminati on of these remarks. This would be fai ling them.l
think. It would almost be committing them an injustice.
What Celan calls Lucil e's "counter*word" does not properl y op-
pose anything, not even the speeches deli vered beforehand
(Camille and Dant on's "grand phrases" at (he foot of the scaffold).
Not even discourse in general. The coumer*word approves noth
ing either: it says nothing in favor of me monarchy. is not a politi
cal word- or even an anarchi c one. It is "absurd"; it does nOf mean
anything. But this does not make it "ncutral," or if so we would
have to agree on the meaning of the term. It is a gesture. It is a
counter-word onl y to the extent it is such a gesture and proceeds,
as Biichner says, from a "decision": the gesture of dying or decision
to di e. By shouting "Long live the King!" Lucile kills herself. Here,
,\ j ..
, .,.
Catastroplu 5
the word is suicidal; it is, as Holderlin said of Greck tragic speech,
"deadly-factual ... [it] truly kills."" As pure provocation, it signi-
fies (the decision to di e), but in a mode othcr than significati on. It
signifies wi thout signi fYing: it is an act. an evcnt (though I would
hc::sirate somewhat to use me word "performative") .
Here is the scene:
(A PATROL emers)
A CITI ZEN. 'Xfho's there?
l.UCIl. E. Long live the King!
C IT I ZEN. In the name of the Republic.
She is surrounded by the WATC H and led away. II
If Luci lc's cry- poerry-properl y says what is proper to the hu-
man, we must understand the proper here as being like the own of
"own death. " In the coumer-word. or rather through the "counter"
of the counter*word, the possibility of death "resolutely" opens up,
as does something like what Heidegger calls, with respect to Da-
U;ll. its "ownmost possibility." And from that point on exist- mese
arc Celan's words-"fate" and "di rection" (188; 30; 69). That is. li b-
erty. Exactly like the sky openi ng "as an abyss" beneath Lenz.
In dfict, men. poetry says existence: the human. It says :,Ystence.
not because it takes me opposing course ro discourse or because it
UI>SCts the rurnaround, the catastrophe of language (me
catastrophe [hat is language); poetry is nOt a catast rophe of cata-
strophe. But , because it aggravates the catasuophe itself, it is, one
might say, its liuraliZllrio1l.
' This is what the "figure" of Lenz sig-
nifies: existence suddenl y "released" at the height of catast rophe,
[he "mortal's" sudden revelation of himself as the one whose exis-
tence rests on the abyss-the bottomlessness-of thc heavens.
This is why_poet ry does not take place outside art, in some else*
where supposed to be the other of art or of its strangcness. It takes
pbce in the "strange placc" itself. And if Cclan 5.1YS of this place that
it is "thc place where a person [succC<.xlsJ in sCll ing himself free, as
an-estranged- I" (195; 34; 75), we IllUSt not lose sight of the fact,
whan:ver the dialectical cast of such a remark (very dose, as it hap-
Remembering Dfl us
pens. TO Hold('rlinian formula(i ons), (hal the I which thus releases
and frees itself. which "comes home," whi ch perhaps even hopes 10
have reached the "occupiable realm, "lO thi s I is in [he vicinity of
deat h, sil ence, and insanity. It fal ls, it frees ilselfin [he void. If theT(:
is appropriation, it is, as in Holderlin, abysmal. One could almost
say that il does nOl rake place as such-and thai poelry does not
occur, unless il is by def.l.Uh as dte in art 's grcaicsi imi macy,
in the very difference of art from itself or in Ihe strangeness to self of
strangeness. AI the unassignable hean of [he Ul1JNimlkIJe.
This explains why Blichner- (he poel. not [he poetician-can
occasion, can even be the obviously paradoxical opportunity for the
a[[empt to say the essence of poetry, and thus call art into question:
And I must now ask if the works of Georg Buchner, die poet of all liv-
ing bei ngs, do not contain a perhaps muted, perhaps only half con-
scious, bur on that account no less radical- or for precisely that rt'3S0n
in the most basic sense a of an? ... A
to which all contemporary poetry must return
jf it is to continue posing qucstions? To rephrase and antici pate
self somewhat: may we proceed from art as something given,
thing to be raken for granted, as is now oft-en done; should we, in con-
cTt'te terms, above all- let us say-follow Mallarme to his logical con-
clusion? (192-9); )0; 7)
This also explains. but in reverse, why Celan, faced with what is
U so diffi cult" (-2.00; )8; 80)-nOl ro say impossible-to di slinguish
(i n (he last pages he speaks of the "impossible path," the "path
of (he impossible"), is forced to use a double language. Now (he
language of simple opposition, which is- though ironicall y-rhe
language of hope (poerry undersrood as freeing art, being rhe end
of art ):
Perhaps ... perhaps poetry, in the company of the I which has for-
gOllcn itself, travel s the same path as an. toward th:lt which is myste-
rious [Illl/'rimlic/'J and ali en [frrmd). And once again- but where?
hut in what place? but how? but as what?_ it sets itself free?
In lilal casc art woul d be the path travelled by poetry-nothing
morc and nothing less. (t9}-94; 33-)4; 74)
Now, in the midst of difficulry, the language of the impossi ble:
the language of difference, which is not. ironically. the language of
despair (poetry underSlOod as the li beration of art; art never done
wit h):
Poctry: it can signify a turn-of-breath. Who knows, perhaps poetry
travels its path-which is also me path of art-for the sake of such a
breath turning? Perhaps it succeeds, since strangeness {das Fmlldt)'
that is, the abyss and the Medusa's head, the abyss and the robots,
seem to lie in the same direction- perhaps it succeeds here in distin-
guishing between strangeness and Strangeness, perhaps at precisely this
point the Medusa's head shri vels, perhaps the robots cease to func-
tion- for this unique, Reeting moment? Is perhaps at this point, along
with me I- with the estranged I. set free at this point and in It similar
manntr-is perhaps at this point an Other SCt free?
Perhaps the poem assumcs its own identi ty as a rcsult ... and is ac-
cordingly abl e to travel other pat hs, (hat is, the paths of art, again and
again- in thi s art-Icss, art-frt'C' manner?
Perhaps. (t95- 6; ) 5; 76)
Or yet , and this time in the most demandi ng. (hat is to say. the
most desperate fashion possible (but always wirh suitabl e irony):
Ladies and gentlemen, I have reached the conclusion- I have returned
to the beginning.
EkJrgi;sez li1rt! This question comes to us with its mysteries [Un-
JNimiichJuirl . new and old. I approached Buchner in its company-I
believed I would once again nnd it there.
I also had an answer ready, a counter-word; I wanted
to establish something in opposition, I wanted to be there wi th my
Expand art ?
No. But accompany an into your own unique place of no escape.
And sct yourself free.
Here, too. in your presence, I have travel led this path. It was a
ci rcle.
Art- and one must also include the Medusa's head, mechani7.3t ion,
robots; the mysterious. indistinguishabl e, and in the end perhaps the
only strangeness i nur tint f"rrmdrl-art lives on. (100; 38; 79-80)
Remembering Datn
If thc difft" rcllcc ca n ever be made, if there exislS the slightest
possibili ty of a separation of poetry, then we must think of this dif-
ference and this separation as internal to an itself. Inside art, pa-
etry would succecd-perhaps-in withdrawing from art; it would
exit art withi n an. Thus we must think, in an's greatest intimacy
and as this intimacy itself, of a sort of spacing or hiatus. A secret
gapi ng. Perhaps intimacy-the "heart" of the same-is always
such a gapi ng, as lhe possibiliry for the same (Q be itself and to join
within itself to itself; the pure-empry-aniculation of the same.
And perhaps for art (the Unh"imliC/u), this intimate gaping would
be precisely what ceaselessly "estranges" the strangeness of art (of
the strange): precisely the caesura of art, the spasm- furtive,
hardly felt-of the strange. In which case poelfy would not be, in
arr-ourside-of-art, the Raw or failing of art, oflanguage: let li S say,
silence. Bur rather the pain of art (of language). Hence the aggra-
vation of the catastrophe. which is, strictly speaking, a revolt (Lu-
cil e, Lcnz).
This is why poetry, if it ever occurs, occurs as the brutal revela-
tion of the abyss that contains art (language) and nevenheless con-
st irutes it, as such, in its strangeness. Poetry takes place, a ln take
place, in an . But this place is not anyplace. The place of poetry, the
place where poetry takes place, every time, is the place without
place of the intimate gapi ng-something we must cenainly con-
ceive of as the pure spacing which places (do not) sup-pose and
which upholds them, with no hold.
No doubt this is whar Cdan ri gorously calls u-ropia:
Topos smdy?
Certainly! But in light of that which is to be studied: in light of
And human beings? And all living Crl'alUrcs?
In this light. (199: 38: 79)
Poetry. by this aCCOUIlI, can be call ed the abyss of art (language):
it makcs art (language) abysmal. In all senscs. This mode of occur-
rence, advent, is "proper" to it.
But it docs nO{ occur, if ever it does occur, as Poet ry, even if af-

terward it can with diffi culty be:: recognized as such. "The absol ut e
poem- no, it does not exist , it cannot exist" (199; 38; 79). It oc-
curs, then, every time, in the time or of the caesura,
in a syncope, as a poem, that is to say as a word-singular, unique.
h occurs in "this unique. Reeting moment" (196; 35; 76), in the "in-
stant" (Augmblick) , the wink of an eye or the head's inclination
(Celan speaks of "the angle of inclination of ... existence" 1197; 36;
77]), in the bli nk of"rdeasc:," of the "free act": in the instanr of the
catastrophe, the revolt-the conversion of the I that opens to ex-
istence and allows the human to rake "place" within it.
This instant makes a date each time-it is date-making. The
poem remains mindful of dates:
Perhaps one can say that every poem has its "20th Per-
haps ,he novelry of poems that are wriucn loday is 10 be found in prc-
cisely ,his poim ,hat here the auempl is most dearly made 10 remain
mindful of such dates?
BUI are we all not descended from such dales? And 10 whi ch dates
do \\-'C anribUi c ourselves? (196; 35; 76)
In a way that differs altogether from the standard expression. and
thus in its strongest sense, poetry is OCCaJionll/ It is on this
account that it keeps, if you will , a dates register, or that it is the
search, poem after poem, for the dates an I can ascribe to itself
(Cdan plays on Jcb"ibm, "to write," and ZUJcIJ"ibm. whose pri-
mary meaning is "to note on an account"). Jt is thus me memory
of evenrs, that is, each dme, of rhe singular though certainly not
unique advenr into existence. Yel this memory is not pure. Like-
wise, there are probably neirher pure evenrs nor pure advents: they
arc numerous, repeatable. prompted in advance by language. Thus
the singular, unique word is, precisely. nor unique: the is al-
ways already carried away in the pom/J. which is to say in the infi-
nite approximation of existence rhat is an, and language. Whatever
task or absolute vocation it assigns or accords irself as regards exis-
tence (rhe human). poetry is language. It speaks: "But the poem, "
says Celan, "does speak! It remains mindful of its dales, but- it
speaks" (196; 35; 76). Poet ry is thus the memory of dates JUSt
Remembaing Dmes
suictly insofur as il is mnemoucJme: an art, after all-of memory.
And lilliS, an an, after aU-ofianguage: logotlme.
Ccrlainly- wc must nOI be afraid of always having to travel the
same circle-memory here is, irreducibl y, the memory of a si ngle
person. As soon as it speaks and must speak (for this is also its im.
perative, the "you musr" that commands it), the poem can do so
only in "its own, its own, individual cause": ill Jeinn eigmm, a/k.
"iguwm Sache, in what properly concerns it (196; 35; 76). This is
why, at the limit of its own possibility, "at the edge of itself,"
wrenching itself from its "now.na.-longer," toward its "as.a1ways"
(197; 36; 77), the poem must dear a way between sil ence and djs
course, between mutism's JIlying nothing and the Jllying too milch of
eloquence. It is the poem's narrow path, the strlliunillg: the path
that is "most narrowly" that of the I (200; 38; 80). But this path
does not lead 10 speech or language. It leads 10 only one word, to a
"language berome reality, language set free under the sign of an in
dividuatioll which is radical" (197-98; 36; 77) . Irreducibly, to the
language of a single person: "Then the poem would be-even
more clearly than before-me language of an individual which has
taken on form; and, in keeping with its innermost nature (Jeinem
imunfm \Vtoultj it would also be the present, the here and now"
(197-98; )6; 77).
Such is, in sum, the "solitude" of the poem, and what obliges it,
with as rigorous an obligation as the obli gation ro speak, not to
"invent" a singular language or build an idiolect from Start to fin
ish, but to undo language (semantically and syntactically); disar.
ri culate and rarefy it; cut ir up according 10 a prosody which is nei-
ther that of spoken language nor that of earlier poetry; to condense
it until one comes to the hard center, the muted resistance where
one recognizes a voice that is singular, that is ro say, separ:l.ted from
language, as is a tone or a style.
Herc, clearly, resides what I have called, for lack of a more judi.
ciolls term, the "idiomatic" threat: the rhrear of hermeticism and
obscurity. Celan has, if! may put it thus, a very dear awareness of
this. He even demands the risk. What is surprisi ng. though, is not
lila! he demands iL The surprise is that this demand is in faCt, once
Ut tllStroplu 57
again, absolutely paradoxical; for if it is indeed made, as one mi ght
expeCt, in the name of catastrophe itself (in the name of abysmal
conversion, or even revolt), lhat is, in the name of existence, it is
rightfull y justified or authorized by onJy one thing: the hope of
whal Celan calls me "encounter," die !kgegrlU1Ig (198; 37; 78).
JUSt after evoking the one who "walks on his head," and the
abyss of the heavens beneath him, Celan says, without ado:
Ladies and gentlemen. nowadays it is f.ashionable to reproach p0-
etry with itS "obscurity." Permit me now, 3bruptly- bul has not some-
thing suddenly 3ppcared on the me now to quote 3
maxim by rasa !. 3 maxim th3t I re3d some time 3g0 in Leo Schos-
lOw: Nr nous reprochrz ptlJ Ie manqllr tk dart! pllisqur nom en foisom
proftsJion! That is, I believe, if not the inhercm obscurity of poetry,
the obscurity amibuted 10 it for the sake of an encounter-from
a great dist3nce or sense of strangeness possibly of its own making.
(195; }5; 75)
Obscurity is thus not at all native to poelry; it does not belong to
its essence. But it comes upon poetry; it is or can be conjoined
wi th it. That it can thus come upon poetry is precisely only, Celan
says, "for the sake or (um . .. wi/kn) the encounter, in me name
of and for the love of an encounter, which itself befalls "from a
great distance or a sense of strangeness." The paradox here is that
obscurity originates in taking the encounter into consideration,
and not in the demand for solitude. Celan does not say obscurity is
destined to prepare or provoke the encounter, that it is a call to the
encountet, or that the encounter is its final aim. He says obscurity
is, on the contrary, a mark of attention-even respecr-with re
gard [0 the encounter. This means the encounter is the occasion,
or rather the very cirmmstllnu of the poem: only once there is an
encounter is there the poem's "soli tudc," and thus obscurity. And
ill fact:
The poem is alone. It is alone and underway. Whoever writes it
must remain in its company.
But does not the poem, for precisely that reason. at this point par-
tici pate in the encoumer- in tlx mJlltry of 1111 mroumrr? (198; 37; 78)
Rmmnbt'rillg Dnft's
II is diffi cult to conceive rhe encounter, irs secret or mystery
(Gt'iJt'imnis; a word in which rhe Ht'im of the near and the own, of
the fumiliar and intimate, still resonates).
In what is perhaps the most striking twist of "The Meridian" (the
moment when Celan recognizes that, after aU, the poem "does
speak," even if"i n its own ... individual cause"), rhe 011,", indeed,
the IUholly ollur, abrupdy appears to replace the elsewhere and the
alien, which umil (his point had been the only terms in question. It
is here (hat the encounter is decided in its essence and possibili ty;
But I think-and this thought can scarcely come as a to
you- I think that it has always belonged 10 the expectations of the
poem in this manner 10 speak in Ihe cause of the strange_
no, I can no longer use this word- in precisely Ihis manner- to speak
ill the caliit' of an Olht'r-who knows, perhaps in the cause of a wholLy
This "who knows," at which I see I have arrived, is the only thing I
can add-on my own, here, today-ro the old expectations.
Perhaps, I must now say ro myself- and a( this point I am making
usC' of a well-known term-perhaps il is now possible to conceive a
mC'ering of this "wholly Other" and an "mhd' whi ch is not far re-
movC'd, which is very near. The poem tarries, StOpS 10 catch a sccnt-
like a cre:l.I ure when confronted with such thoughts. (196-97; }S-}6;
This is not , cont rary [Q what one might think, a "forced pas-
sage." At most, on me "parh" that never StOPS dosing off, coming
to nothing or leading back to the same poim. ir is an altempt ar a
new dearing. We al ready know that at any rare there will be no
"passage" in "The Meridian. "
Nor is this a simple "profession of faith"; the "who knows,"
which is itself dllft'd("at which I see I have now arrived"), suspends
what precedes it. In any case it leaves open the question of
tence, or of the possibi liry of the "wholly other" thus designated.
Moreover, rhe justification for recourse to such an expression is
self parlicularly discreet and reserved; there is nor a word too many,
and nothing to flatt er the "old expectations" tOO much.
CatllIlTOpht 59
Yet this said, how is the encounter decided in the substinttion of
aherity for strangeness? And how is such a subsritution possible?
The logic we have already seen at work is still the same; cata-
strophic and paradoxical. Speaking in its own name or its own
dividual cause, speaking the language of singularity, of "an indi-
viduation which is radi cal." the poem hopes, has always hoped,
precisely in this manner. in this language (though it is so difficult
to reach), to speak "in the cause of the Strange," in the name of rhe
strange and the alien. That is, to use, in and as one's own, proper
language, the alien language, the language of estrangement. Cclan's
brutal reversal here of the movement which up to this point has
srraitened his gait is simply the sign that between proper and nor-
proper, near and far. familiar and strange, the exchange is always
reversible. and for this reason never StopS; it is nor fi xed and has
no determined direcrion. At the very heart of estrangement or r
appropriation, by way of an enigmatic trope or turn, appropria-
tion occurs. Bur this also means that such an appropriation takes
place the self. " The appropriation, the singular
ation, is nOt the appropriation of the self within irself. The self-
or the singular I- reaches itself within irsclf only "outside." Reap-
plying one of Heidegger's formulas, we can say rhat the "outside
self" is the self's origin. It is thus, for example. that in rhe last
poem of Nimuwdsrolt', "In der Luft" ("In the Air"), "die Entt-
weiren" (the disunited) are described: "heimgekehn in I den
heimlichen Bannstrahl l def di e Verstreuten versammclt"
turned home into' the un-homely banishment I which gathers up
the scattered ones" I GW,; 290)).L!
And in faCt, !he volte or revolt of appropriation does not rake
PUtCt'. The "here and now" of singular existence is immediately an
elsewhere and anot her time (a date whose memory must be kept).
If appropriation occurs, we know it is in u-topia itself. This is why
we mUSt substitute for the topological division of here and strange,
nea r and far- which inevitably assigns places-the unlocatable di -
aheriry. In rhe place (wit hout place) of the
elsewhere, an "other" occurs. that is. a singular existent in whose
name- and (his time, the expression is apt- the poem maintains
the hope of speaking. Estrangement yiel ds ground to the encoumg.
But the encounter is no less abysmal than csuangemcnt. As SOOn
as other occurs, as such, there is the threat of an absolute aherity:
ab*solutc. which forbids or renders impossible all relation. The
olher. if it is indeed other, is immediately the wholly mher. But at
the same ti me, t he other. even if wholly other, is. insofar as it is
OI her, unthinkable without relation to the same: as soon as other
appears, detaching itself from rhe same, the same, in advance. has
al ready recovered it and brought it back. It is impossible to think a
total unbinding.
Alterity is contradictory in its essence. From precisely this para
dox, Western onto-theology up to Hegel and beyond-one might
as well say, all our thought- has developed. Here it underpins
Celan's emire discourse. Bm with a very part icul ar accent, once
agai n close to Heidegger's, whi ch ai ms to remove it from all struc
turing of a dialectical type, to suspend in it the movement of res0-
lution, ro maintain it as pure paradox.
For the same, in turn, is irself only in rel ation to the other; the
begi nni ng of Logik says in substance that the
si mple and immediate posi tion of the same (of Being) is pure no
thingness or empty nothingness. Between the same and the other
there is necessarily a relation, a reciprocal relation, or rather, as
Holderli n said, an exchange. One could say that this double rela
tion, which simultaneously di vides the same and the other to pUt
them, chiasmatically, in relation to other than what they are, stems
from the sameness of [he same and the alterity of the other.
But this is not at all so. In the "relating to," it is by definition the
movement of al teration that predominates. Or if one prefers, dif
ference is always more primitive. So that in the relat ion of the same
and the other (here is an imbalance. This means that it is the alrer
ifY of (he other, the being-wholly-other of the other or a certain
"duplicityn in the other that insti tutes the same as a relation to {he
other, and thus always differentiates it. The same is Heraclitus's
"one differentiated in itself" - a phrase moreover by
Holderlin at {he dawn of speculat ive ideali sm:
This is why the

6 ,
wholl y other-whcther or nOt the word, for Celan, designates
God-de-parts the other, that is, approaches it: relatcs it to the
same, which receives it in, or rather IlJ its most imimatc difference.
The wholl y other is the gift of the other as thc possibility of the
same, that is, as the possibili ty for the same of establishing itself as
"differancc" (I use Derrida's spelling here for what it indicates as to
temporali ty and the origin of time). The same (lhc Subj C1:t) does
not, as speculative logic believes. go outside the self and pass into
its other, with a view to turning and rel at ing back to the self so as
to establish itself as such. But under the (original) gift of the other
to which it already always relates itself, the same is the pure move
mem that allows the intimate gaping-which is, within the self. its
"original outside scl f n {time)-to hollow itself out. to open and
I may be wrong, but in the firs t pan of Dit Nimlilfldsrost there
arc twO poems, "Dein HinUbersein" Being Beyond") and
heiden Handen" ("On Either Hand")-they in faCt appear
one right after the other-that seem to me to speak not of this
(t hey in no way say this very thing), but from this. In the fi rst, one
GOll , das lasen wiT, is!
ei n Teil und ein zweiter, zerstTtuter:
all der Gem;thten
wiichst er sich zu:
flihn uns deT Bli ck,
mit dieser
habcn wi r Umgang.
God. so we read, is
a pan and a second, a scattered one:
in the death
of all those mown down
he grows himself whole.
Remembering Dl1lt's
our looki ng leads us,
with this

we keep up
And in the second:
... ich
nnde hi naus.
o dicsc wandernde leere
gastliche Mi tte. Getrenm,
fa ll ich dir zu, fallst
du mir zu, ei nander
emfullen, schn wir
hat uns
verloren, das
hat uns
vergc:sscn, das
hat uns-
... 1
find my way out.
o this wanderi ng emp}'
hospirable midst. Apan ,
1 fall to you, you
full to me, fallen away
from each other, we see
and the same
lost us, one
and the same
forgotten us, one
and the SlIme
The substirution of the other and the wholly other for the strange
and the elsewhere thus produces an ocueme thought of d ifference .
And this thought in turn permits one to think of singularity as the
secret- we could also say the imimacy-of the encoumer. What
Celan calls the cncounter is thus first the holl owing out, the int i-
mate gae ing of si ngul arity. The encounter is thc ori ginal int imate
ecstasy according to which si ngular being exists. This is why one can
say of the poem which is "alone" that it also takes place "in the mys-
tcry of an encounter." II is also why Celan can say the foll owing
whcn hc evokes near the end of "T he Meridian" the two texts in
which he "staned to writ c from a '20th of January'" - the "cata-
strophic" quatrain I have already ci ted ("come on your hands to us")
and the "Gesprach im Gebirg" ("Conversation in the Mountai ns"):
"In each instance I started to write from a '2mh of January,' from
my ' 20th of January.' I encountered ... myself" (201; 39; 81).
It is true that in the encounter (!hgtg11Ullg), the val ue of "against"
(gt'gm) of "across fro m" or "vis-}-vis," seems to predominate. A
value of opposi ti on. This certai nly seems to be the way Celan un-
de(Slands it when he defi nes the poetic act as "anention," "percep-
tion," and "diaJogue":
The poem wants to reach the Other, it needs this Other, it needs a
vis-a-vis. It searchcs it out and addresses il.
Each thing, each person is a form of Ihe Other for the poem, as it
makes for this Other.
The poem anemplS 10 pay areful attention to everythi ng it en-
counters: it has a finer of detail. of oudine, of Slfucture, of color,
and also of the and the Msuggestions." These are, 1 be-
li('Ve, not qualities gained by an eye competing (or cooperati ng) with
mechanical devices which arc continuall y bei ng brought to a higher
degree of perfection. No. it is a concentration which remains aware of
all of our datcs ....
'111e poem becomes-and under whae condiei ons!-a poc:m of one
who- as before-perceives, who fitees that whi ch appears. Who qucs-
dons Ihis appearing and addresses it. It becomes dialogue-it is often
dl.'Spairing dialogue. (198; 37; 78)
BUI Ole the same time, the value of opposi tion is d early not the
determining value here. It is inevitably attached to the motif of aI-
lerity. Yet nothing indicates that it constitutes the concept.
What these lines reall y seck ro say is the poetic act as an act of
thought. It is no accidem that Celan's definition of anention is. via
Benjamin, that of Malebranche: "'Attemion'-permit me at this
point to quote a maxim of Malebranche which occurs in Walter
Benjamin's essay on Kafka: 'Anemion is the natural prayer of the
(198; 37; 78). Again, it is no accident that the encounter is
defi ned as a "perceiving" and a "questioning." The "perceiving"
(wllhnuhmen)- and once more we must consider Heidcgger, who
here, as it happens, is both very far from and near to Benjamin- is
the Greek thought, the very essence of reason (Verll/mft); as
for the questioning- but here, the proximi ty is very strange-we
well know that Heidegger, in a F.unous text, said it was nothing less
than the "Frommigkeit des Denkens."26
Yet thought supposes what I am calling, of course for lack of a
bener term, intimacy or the int imate difference. It supposes, or
more precisely, it originates in inti macy as the possibiliry of "lnring
/0 in general. It is in this sense thai the poem thi nks or is a dia-
logue. The dialogue is a speaking and a naming (whi ch one would
have to call "pure" if echoing Benjamin, "essential" if thinking of
Heidegger). But speaking and nami ng are, in turn, a "Ierring
speak. " To speak to the other bei ng or thing- ro address him or it.
is (Q let what speaks in him or it occur, and accept this word in the
very heart of the poem (i n irs "immediacy and proximity") as the
gift of the other. It is to prepare, ecstatically, for the "presence" of
Ihe other wit hi n oneself; ro let intimacy open up.
Only in [he realm of Ihis dialogue does thai which is addressed rake
for m and galher around the I who is addressing and naming it. BUI
[he one who has been addressed and who, by vinue of having been
UUflstropJU 6,
named, has, as il were, become a thou, also brings its olherncss along
into [he presenl, into Ihis pre:sent.-In Ihe hcre and now of the poem '
il is still possible""":the poem iuelf, after al l. has only Ihis one, unique,
limiled present- only in Ihis immediacy and proximity does it allow
Ihe mosl idiosyncratic quality of Ihe Olher, its time, 10 partici pate in
(he dialogue. (198-99; m 78) -
The "counter" of the encounter or the against is thus not sim-
ply the "counter" of opposition. Rather, in the very that
is [he encounter, it is what rids itSelf of opposition. It is the
of proximity, that is. of dc-parting. The other de-parts,
dose against a proximity such that it makes the very space of inri-
rnacy which renders possible thought and word. that is. di alogue.
For [his reason the poem turns, within itself, to
yvhat is "in the process of it questions the very coming
into presence. The poem (the poetic act) , in this mode proper ro \
it (dialogue), is the thought of the present's presence, or of the
other of what is present: the_th2Yght of no-thingness (of Being),
t hat is 10 say, t he thought of time. "Soviel Gest irne" ("So Many
... in den Schluchten,
dOl. wo's vergliillle. stand
zlttcnprachlig die Zei t,
an def schon empor- und hinab-
und hinwegwuchs, was
is[ oder war oder sci n wird-,
ieh weiss,
ieh weiss und du weissl. wi r wussten,
wir wuSSlcn nichl . wir
waren ja dOl und nichl doC!.
und 1.uweil en, wenn
nur d3S Nichts zwi schcn uns Siand, fitnden
wir ganz zueinandcr .
. . . in chasms,
and where Ihey had burm OUl,
splendid wilh leatS, stood Time,
011 which already grew up
and down and away all thai
is or was or will bc-.
I know,
I know and you know, we knew,
we did not know, we
were there. after al l, and nor there
and at times when
only the void stood bcrwccn us we gOi
att the way lO each mher.17
Of course, Cclan is not saying time itself, but rather, speaking of
the other who in eve'}' instance, a Rarticular other, hi! tin.!.. The
poetiC act (the poem) is a singular experience, the dialogue is a
gular dialogue. And this is of course what distinguishes poetry
from thought proper, from [he exercise of thought. even (and
peciall y) if poetry thinks. But I do nor thi nk one call make this an
argument, as Uvinas does a bit hastil y, in favor of who knows what
improbable "beyond" of "ontology"; in favor of a pathos (here,
mictl y conceived), of the "otherwise [han Being."18 Ccrrainly pow
cric questioning begins with a singul ar address: to the mher, in faCt
as a "you. " But this address to the you is an address to the
al tcrity of the you-of this other; it is the address, obscurely arisen
from intimacy (from the intimate difference), to the being of the
other, whi ch always "is" and can onl y "be" Being. I-Iow could one
speak at all if Being was not involved? There is no "otherwise than
Bei ng," unl ess, once again, one understands Being as being, and
misses, in the other, precisely its altcrity. Poetry's "you-saying," irs
llaming. is.!! way of "Being-saying" other than that whi ch proru; rI
belongs to thought, but still a way of " Being-saying." It is possible
,har another space opens up from sll ch a naming, or ,hat naming
shcds a diffcrent light o n the space opencd up by any saying. To
cxpress this, Heidegger uscs Holderli n's word: "the hol y" (dllS
lige). nut the other space or rhc space on which a di ffcrcnt liglll is
shcd is 110! "beyond" Bcing. The experiencc of the You, thc el1 -
COUllt er, opens o nto nothing other than thc experience of Being:
of the no- thing of being-which Celan design;lI es, precisely in
Holderlin's (erms (not Rilke's), as "openncss," "empt iness," "free-
dom." I again qume the decisive passage:
When \'o'e speak with things in this manner "'ot always find ourselves
faced with the qUCi tion of tht ir whtnce and whither [naeh ihrtm
W1:I/"" und Wohin]: a qucstion which "remains and "docs not
come (0 an end," whi ch pointS into openness, emptiness, frcedom-
we are outside, at a considerablt distance.
The poem, I believe, also Sttk.ol this pl ace. (199; J7; 78-79)
In other words, poetry's questioning is mela-physical questioni ng
itself, in the sense that ir is the repetition of rhe meta-physica1 as
Hcidegger undersrands it. It questions in the direction of being as
"transcendence as such" (das tritmulldens SChlLcJJthhl).19 JUSt such a
"transcendent" is sought in [he singul ar thing or being it is incum-
bent upon poetry- the poem- to perceive (think): it is the "wholly "...
other," [he and rhe uUJs of the other, and nothing here
permitS us [ 0 simpl y identify this wholl y other with God. That is
why Celan can say of poetic questioning, of the demand or
tension (Ampmch) in all poems, even the least pretentious
spmchsUJsnu) [hat it is at once "inescapable" and "incredible." The
qucstion the poem carri es is, as Launay correctl y translates,
bi tam" (199; 38; 79)
In this sense, the poetic act is ecstatic. The exorbitant is the pure I
transcendence of being. It follows that the poem, as a questioning,
is [limed toward [he open, offered up to it. And rhe open is itself/
open, after a fashion , to u-topia, to the place the
advent. To put it in other terms, rhe poeliC act IS catastrophIC: an
upsctting relation to what is an upset, in being, in rhe direction 01
no-thingness (the abyss).
T his is just what justifies the idea that poetry is the interruption
of art, that is, the interruption of mimesis. Poetic an consists of
pe rceiving, nor represe nti ng. Representing, at least according to
some of the "ancienr TUmors," can o nl y be said of the already-pre-
sent. What is "in rhe process of cannot be represented,
or if so, we must give a completel y different meaning to represen-
Rnnemb(!rillg DIlIt's
rati on. For pacify. represemation is organi zed start ing with what
onc might call omic comparison (the comparison of the already-
prcscm with the from which arise figures or im-
ages, "metaphors and mher ropes," all the turns of phrase that al -
Iowa ccrrain use of language to Ix defined as "poet ic." Measured
against the requi rements of questioning tOward Being or presence,
the amic comparison, and therefore me "poetic," have to do with
what Heidcggcr denounced as "idols" (Giitun) and problcmati zed
as "thi nking in models" (Dmkm in Modelkn). j(J There is nothing
_to which onc can compare Being: Being is, purely and

Poetry as Celan understands it is thus in this sense the imcrrup-
tion of rhe "poeti c." At least , it is defined as a banle against idola-
try. All "real" poems, all that are effecti vely poems, seem to aim at
nothing other than being the place where the "poeri c" coll apses and
becomes abysmal. The taSk of poetry seems to be ti relessly undoing
the "poetic"; nor by "purring an end" to figures and tropes, bur by
pushing them ad ab1t4rtill1n, as Lucile's "Long li ve the Ki ngl" in the
sharp light of death suddenly makes absurd the thearricali ty and
grandil oquence of "histori c" discourses. In the hi ghl y ri gorous
sense the term has in Heidegger, poetry would thus be the "decon-
struction" of the poetic, that is to say, both of what is recognized
as such (here there is a closely fought confrontation with the p<>-
eti c tradition) and of the spontaneous "poeticity" of language
(which supposes the strictest possible language work).
Such a task. which amounts to extenuat ing the "poetic," is per-
haps impossible-Celan is the first to say so. Neverthel ess, it is
what his poetry strives to do. It strives as "poetry of poet ry." But it
also st rives inasmuch as it seeks to reduce the image to pure per-
ception, that is, seeks to empty o r holl ow out the image. To the
question "And what, then, would the images be?" once the poem
condenses in "exorbitant" questioni ng, the response is: "That
which is perceived and to be perceived one ti me, one time over and
lover again, and ollly now and onl y here" (199; 38: 79). Poetry
would thus measure itself against the impossibility of a language
wi thout images or the impossibility of what Benjamin call s "pure
language," that is, the language of names.}l
Two remarks [ 0 close:
I. In its impossible, exhausting combat with an (the mot if of
panting, babbling, or stammering), wants to rid itsel f
of is the beautiful. The poem's threat is the Ixautiful, and all p0-
ems are always ( 00 beautiful, even Celan's.
The beautiful is obviously closely linked to mimesis. This is par-
ti cularly visible in Benjamin, who defines the beautiful "as the ob-
ject of experience in t he state of resemblance." He quot es Valery
on this: "Beauty may require the servile imitation of what is inde-
fi nable in objecrs."H If one went so fa r as to say "the servile imita-
t ion of that which is inimitllble in things," one would reach what
makes poetry's essence for Cclan, that is. what does not destine it
for the beautiful- o r for mi mesis. But at the same time this pure
oxymoron, imi tati on of theinimi table. marks the impossibil-
ity of poetry. This is where Celan locates the tragic.
2 . I do nOt know, finally. if "Tilbingen, Janner" contains t he
slightest allusion to Moses and the interdiction against representa-
ti on. AlII know is mat Holderlin, more than has 1>n and
more than Heideggerian commentary leads us to think. evoked the
Patriarchs. "Am Quell der Donau" ("At the Source of the Dan-
ube"), for example, says this:
And think of you, a valleys of the Kaulwos.
Whatever your antiquity, paradises far,
And your patriarchs and prophets,
a Mother Asia , and your heroes
Without fea r for the signs of the worl d,
Heaven and fate upon thei r shoulders,
Rooted. on mounlaintops days on end,
Were the first to understand
Speaking to God
Rmumwring Vain
Patriarchs and prophets arc named here: t hose who have known an
CIl COUluer- :1. dialogue-with God. Celan would perhaps have
s;tid: wit h Ihe wholly ot her. And perhaps he would have conceived
such a d ialogue as poetry itself. Perhaps. AnOlher poem from
NinnmuiJrou, "Sci Wein und Vcrlorenhcit" ("Over Wi ne and Lost-
ness"), speaks in this directi on. It says:
ieh ritt dUTch den Schnee, horst du,
ieh rill Gon in die Fernc--dic N:thc. cr sang,
cs war
unseT tettter Rift
die Mcnschcn-Hfi rdcn.
Sic ducktcn sich,
sic.: uns tiber sich horten, sic
schri cbcn, sic
logen unseT Gcwichcr
urn in cine
ihrer bebildcm:.n Sprachcn.
I rode through the snow, do you hear,
I rode God into fu rness-nearness, he sang,
II was
our last ri de over
the human hurdl es.
They ducked when
they heard us above Iheir heads. Iht')'
wrote, they lied
?ur whi nnyi ng
Int o one
of their be-imaged
2 Prayer
10-15, 1983
I said of "Psal m," in Ni mlafldsrou, (hal it is a ureal prayer."
Just what did I mean?
Three things, it .seems to me (I had difficul ty art iculating them
whi le improvising a response. And even now, what I propose is
hardl y bener than a sketch).
I. First of al l, I meant simply that "Psalm," at least in its second
stanza , is in standard prayer form:
Gelobt scisl du, Niemand.
Di r rulieb wollen
wir bl uhn.
Di r
elll gcgen.
Praised be your name, no one.
For your sake
we shall flowe r.
The standard form of prayer happens 10 be invocati on and ad-
dress-laudatory address. Unlike what happens in Trakl's Famous
poem, for example, the tide " Psalm" is not formall y denied; th is is
indeed a song or a hymn in honor of ... No one. Moreover, it is
a ncar '1l1ote. through which it becomes clear that No one is named
in place of the biblical God, the God invoked in Hebrew (thcn
Christian) liturgy. In place of the creawr God to whom the first
SllJl7.ll alludes:
Niemand knel el uns wieder aus Erde und u-hm
niemand bcspricht unsern Staub. '
No one moulds us again ou( of earth and day,
no one conjures our dun.
That is why, for the love of such a "God," man (the "we" who
proffers the prayer) sees and designates himself as a creature: the
no onc's rose.
One can of course think that the substitution of "No for
God, and the transformation of the substantive (the "common
noun") into a proper noun, art" ironical-that this is a SOrt of sar-
casm bordering on blasphemous parody ... No....o.nc .. has nevcr been
a n:une. except in the wily Witz U!xsses used to escape the Cyclops,
or In Pessoa. But not hing in the tone of the poem indi cates such
an irony. Unless, that is, one understands irony as itself the figure
of despair, a despair here absolute:
Ein Nichts
waren wir, sind wir, werden
wir bleiben, hlilhend ...
A nothing
we were, are, shall
remain. Rowcring ...
Whence a second possible objection: this poem may be an anti-
or coullIer-prayer, a SOrt of "ncgative" prayer; a prayer whose aim is
10 show prayer's inanity. But the prayer form, the invocation, does
mc..inanity of the prayer itself. The praycLSeems to nu[-
ItSelf as address because it null ifies its addressee by present -
1Ilg. or nanung..him as No one. But "No one" only ever means rhe
absence or li on-existence of the addressee, not that there is no ad-
drCSSt."1:. There is no absurdity in such a proposition. It means si m-
ply that by not invoking anJonr,l jhe prayer is indeed empty or> __
but that by invoking No one it remains a prayer. To put it an-
other way, the paradoxical naming of irs address makes it at once
(formally) possib[e, and impossible. It is no less a prayer for that ,
in its very impossibility; a prayer and, "who knows," perhaps a "at
prayer. The paradox here is just the one that ceaselcssly creatcs the
tension in Cclan's poetry and thought.
2. To substimte No one for God is (0 reveal in a daz.z.l.ing way
that "God" is not, or was not, a name. This poem has an apoca-
lypti c quality.
To say that "God" was not a name amounts (0 saying that
"God," long thought the name of all names, name of me name' l
desiS!!ated no one to whom to direct an apdress; iuv.as a word or a.
signifying that but
neither more nor less 2 name than "man" is (one can address some-
one by calling out "Man!" but only when one does not know the
person's name, or when, dependi ng on circumstances, one cannot
or will not say it). As HeideggeL.Says, in substance, before such a
(concept of) God, one can nei ther kneel, nor offer sacrifices. nor
pray. And if people believed they could address God. call him by
the "name" God. this was no less paradoxical than invoki ng No
one (the divi ne. on (he other hand, is always named and renamed:
Apoll o, Jesus, the oblique "Christ." The biblica[ god is known by
several names, or an unpronounceable, written one).
That God is nOt a name, that one can be aware of this even
when invoking him with this name, can of course also mean that
God has no name, or that God, the name of the name, is beyond
all names. We kno; at least rhis minimum of negative theology:
God exceeds through infinite power (i.e., by his infinite presence)
any ki nd of assigning. Finite language cannot rake the measure of
his infi nity. That is, the cannot say what is wholly
other. But that is nor what Cdan's poem_prayer_ reveals. The
poem reveals simpl y that GPd, because he is God, i.\..:no one."
Remembering Dates
( rhat as such j{is .hit
"uamc" is no one's name. If underl ying this revelation there is a son
of accusation- which I think rhere is; I would say, even, a desper-
au: accusati on- it is clearl y against t heology, which is to say against
philosophy. PlatO did not only "dispose people tOward Christian-
, ity"; in Plato'S language, our language, all that is divi ne came, irre-
versibly, to be said (Bm if an accusation of t his son is indeed pre-
sent here, it in no way prohibits the strange elation, the liberty, t hat
traverses t he poem).
"God does not is not a decl arati on of atheism. At most, it
would be only if "God does not exist" meant "God has never ex-
p sred. " "Psal m" suggestS nothing of the SOrt; rather, it intimates that
, God has revealed himself to be "no one."3 Indeed, the wieder of the
first verse, side by side wit h knett'n, is stri king:
Niemand knetet uns wieder aus Erde und Lehm.
No one moulds us again OUI of earth and day.
This clearl y means that someone d id so in the past; someone, a
god, (he god of creation, molded us out of eanh and day and con-
jured our dust. Or at least, we humans believed so; we believed t hat
we were creatures and that someone, t he god of this creati on, com-
forted us even in death. T hus defi ned as mortal creatu res, it was
possible for us to address the god who de-termi ned our existence
in thi s manner. But once we no longer define ourscl ves as mon a!
creat ures,jt is one created us, that we' are noth-
ing- or rather that we are "a not hi ng." (eill Nicbts), a in
the sense of nIS crMtum- and that the only prayer it is still in our
power to proffer, in echo of the old prayer, is a prayer to No one. It
is reveal ed t hat Revelati on has come to an end. Since this end we
can say, in prayer, not th at God has never existed, but that we hu-
mans have never been, a[ld will never be, anythi ng but "nothings."
T he possibili ty of the Revelation is closely linked- and t his has
always, necessaril y been the case-(Q rhe question of man, the
essence of man. fu soon as man in hi s essence is no-t hing, as
soon as the being he is can be defi ned- in recoll ecti on of Angel us
SilesLus's abysmal rose, t he "rose of n.9thi ng" or of not hingness
(admirabl e still, li ke everythi ng t hat is}- what has been call edl), ...
"God, H the mmmll 1l/, is revealed no longer [Q exist. And this,
is attested to in its becoming anO!lymous: t he word
"God" did not name anyone, or in any case no being in the mode
of a being,5 even one of incomparably more than human being-
infin ite, supreme, and so on.
We still need to know, however, if "to exist" is the same thing as
"to be." I mean simply t hat the question of God depends on the
questi on of man. Yet the questi on of man or hi s essence is not
is man?H bur rather, "Who is man?" Heidegger took it in
t hi s form fro m Holderlin in an a[(empt ro pry it away from
Kant- ro the detriment of a programmatic philosophical anthro-
pology. The same goes for God; t he question "What is God?" will
never reach God hi mself, in his existence or If God
is man's other, only one question about him is possible. T hat is: +
"Who is God?" Moreover, ro the question " What is man?" t he an-
swer, today, is always already that man is the subject. This indi cates
simply rhat man is God, or t he converse.
Celan's extraordinary, "exorbi tant" effort consists of keeping
open t he question "Who?" even wi th respect to God and even if, as
Heidegger says, t he questi on ("Who is the God?") is "perhaps .. .
t OO difficult for man, and asked tOO early." One hears it resonate, I
think, in anot her poem fr;;;-Die in which, after a
fashion, the Al liance is affi rmed:
Es war Erde in ihnen, und
sic gruben.
Sie gruben und gruben, so gi ng
ihrTag dahi n, ihre Naehe Und sic [oblen nichl Galt,
det, so horten sic, alles dies wallie,
der,.so hortcn sic, alles dies wusstc.
Sie gruben und honen ni chts mchr;
sic wurdcn nicht weise, erfanden kei n Lied,
erdachten sich keincrlei Spl"Jehe.
Sic gruben.
kam ei ne SlmC, es kam aueh ein Sturm,
e$ kamen die Mccre allc.
!eh grabe, du griibst, und es grjbt aueh de! Wurm,
und das Singende don sagt: Sic graben.
o einer, 0 keincr. a niemand, 0 du:
Wohin gi ngs. da's nirgcndhin
o du grjbst und ieh grab, und ich grab mich di r lU,
und am Finger erwachl um der Ring.
There was canh inside them, and
they dug.
They dug and they dug, so thcir day
went by for thcm, thci r night. And they did not praise God,
who, so they heard, wanted all this,
who, so rhey heard. kncw all this.
They dug and heard nothing more;
they did not grow wise:, invent ed no song,
thought up for themse:h'es no language.
Thcr dug.
There camc a stillness, and therc came a storm
and all the occans came. '
I dig, you dig, and the worm digs tOO,
and chat si nging out thcre sa)'3: They dig.
o onc, a none, 0 no one, 0 you:
Where did the: way Icad when it led nowhe: rc?
o you di g and I dig, and I dig towards you.
and on our finger the ri ng awakcs.
Cclan's questioning thus considers the possibility that God-
Y t?rough the "name" "God" - has become anonymous. The revela-
ti on of God's anonymity is a historical event (li ke the Revelation
It is perhaps the very event, or advent, of his lOry. God's..be-
(as, I think it probable, the Revelation itself) is_
blStonclty; that is, the dislocation of the reli gious. We are very d ose
here to the meaning of Holderl in's "retreat" and "ret urn-turning
away," or to NietzSChe's "God is dead."
"God is dead" (l et us nor forget that weare the oncSj J
who killed hIm) produces. however, man's extreme sclf_assumption1Df"
as a subject-the subjcct of the Wi ll to Power. This culminatcs in
an ent irely necessary way in what I have found it accurate to call
"the subject 's plunge into insanity":' I am God- Dionysus; Qr, pre-
cisel y in thcJoss of the name, I am all names (the names of his-
lOry). For behind NietzSChe's "God is dead," there is the
tive) deat h of the God; that is, the absolute,
unto-death fi niti zation of God, his absolute becomi ng man. And
this is his resurrection as the Absolure. the subject itself. Celan dis-
tances himself from both these ideas-if indeed they are lWO-of
the cnd of the divine.
On the other hand, t@."withdrawal" of the di vine in Holderiin,
the "categorical turning away" of me god (the Father, who is the
"mther of ti me") that draws on the essence of Creek tragedy. is in
no way related [0 any of the figures of Cod's deat h. "Reueat" is nQJj
death; i.0s, on the contrary. r eves the god I
to an from the divine. what for
"the immediate, rigorously considered, is impossible for mortals
and immortals alike. '" Which means at least that the immediacy
of the god, his pure and simple epiphany,,is-as tragedy attests-
man's deat h, or plunge into turmoil. It is the monStrous ( ulIge-
heun) coupling in whi ch the god, tOO, is lost in man's excess, his
enthusiasm. Retreat is thw necessary to preseeve the god's "holi,)
ness," in the same way that the law commands man to endure the
god's "Raw"-bccause only the Raw helps or saves. Eauhe man re.-
q.t rned to earth (carastrophized), such "wlfitithfulncss" is the height
o "piety." This supposes that epiphany always be conceived as the
initial moment of retreat, or the ini tial tCSt of finit ude; man's fi nite
bei ng is his bei ng a-tlleo!. Bm it al so supposes that the divine be
subj ect to the very history its epiphany-or retre3t-sets into
ti on: the gods have rurned away from [he world; perhaps a god is ....
still to come.
Celan is closer to this idea. Obviously, he cannOt thC I
"lack of sacred or hol y names." The god he is thinki ng of is the ...,. '.'
Jewish god, and he knows with overwhelming cenainty where the
Rrmrmbrrillg Data
rU0smigia for ,,/IItbOI, and the frenzied att empt at
tion (whi ch Holderl in escaped, but wirh whi ch Heidegger
promist:ti himself well beyond 1933's proclamati ons) led Germany
(Europe). Nevertheless, be shanxlwith Holderl in, in direct desttnt
from the motif of the "time of thc..hopc of a religion to
come. Implicitl y, at leas!. Near the end of "The Meridian," we
Ladies and gentlemen, I am approaching the concl usion ... . 1 2m
2pproaehing the conclusion of ... "u-once and Lena.
And here, with the nnal twO words of the dt3ma,' 1 mwt pay
/jJ1 attention, lest, like Karl Emil Fra.nzos. the editor of that KFirst
Complete CritiC:l1 Edi tion of Grorg BUchner's Collected Works and
Posthumous P2PCrs," which the SauerHinder Press published in Frank-
fUT! am Main eigill y-one years ago-I must pay careful attention, lcst,
like my rOUlItT'J111411 KArl Emil FmIlZI)J, /Uhom I haw htTt foll lld 4gaill, I
Tad Kroming" for Kcomfortable, which is now the accepted variant.
But on second thought: aren't there quof3tion marks present in
"Leonce and Lena," quotation marks with an invisible: smile: in the di-
rection of the words? And perhaps these 2ft to be understood nOi as
mere punct uation scra. tches, but rather as rabbit cars, listening in,
son1ewhat timidly, on themselves and the words?
Celan of course chooses "comfortable." But he chooses it with its
quotation marks. It is, moreover, "with that as a starting poi nt"-
"but also in the light of ut opi a" - that he anempts, he says, a
for Lenz's and Franzos's place of origin;
searchlllg for hiS own. None of these places can be found; instead,
one encounters the meridi an, that is, the vcry line that conducts
the poem towards the encounter.
So there wi ll have been at least ,his possibilj'ty suspended before
..-! us; a way of saying "who knows?" A religion to come. And even if,
after and then the expl icit turning point of Amn-
reference to God is, as it were, rarefied; even jf a poem
Ill. Du speaks of the god who "comes /lot , "I I Cclan
never sa id what, in reading him. I am tempted 10 say
(wllhout wanting to put the words in his mouth); namely, fhat it is
all over; God's becoming-anonymous is irreversible. Cclan will
have maimained the possibili ty of prayer.
3. I was thinking, too, of this: mightn't it be that a poem which
thus mai ntains the possibi lity of prayer- at its oU[er limit , [0 be
sure-is the sign [hat a link. and perhaps a necessary link, exists
betwccn ptayer and poetry? That poetry in its essence is prayer, and
conversely, that every prayer is a poem?
The second proposition apparcmly poses little di fficulty; after
all . the sole archives 0( 1I1e divine are poems, and an address to rhe
god, more than othcr ki nd, requires :i conversion in language
or an entirely diffcrent att itude within it. When, in view of the en-
counter, u lan dedicates the poem to attention, he does not take
li ghtl y Malcbranche's defi ni tion: attention is "the soul's natural
prayer." If the idea of prayer magnetizes the poem's search, it is
d early because is here conceived as the original form of
3.ddress. And prayer is conceived, in a way, as the clcment of the
poetic. But that amounts to saying that in its essence, poetry is
prayer. How to undersrand thi s?
..... I think that it has always belonged to the expectations of
the poem ... to speak in eallst of an Otlur-who knows, per-
haps in the cause of a who/ely one cannot long pretend
not to know that [his phrase from "The Meridian" appeals 10 God.
And that it appeals specifi cally to God so as to say the original
hope. and thus the first aim, of poetry. This amounts to Structuri ng
the phrase to God, or assigning it, in its essence, to be the word ut -
tered in God's name, for his cause. And finally, to be prayer.
We must not be tOO quick to believe, however, that such assign-
ment is si mply tantamount to rencwing olllo-theological confu-
sion. T hus invoking the wholl y other is obviously risky. But
nowhere in "The Meridi an" docs one find the slightest proposition
that would authorize d osi ng the wholly other down 0 1110 Being-
bei ng which is, moreover, never designated as such, even if it is
Strictly conceived as no-thingness (that which is open, empty, free),
perhaps beyond what Heideggcr's stat ements on poetry as a "topol-
80 Rmmnbmllg Dales
ogy of suggesl.
T he reference 10 the wholly other, in its
suspensive mode (" ... who knows, perhaps ... ") is, on the con.
lrary. a question asked, toward God, to the dcrcimcm of onto-the-
ology. It is precisdy bttause the being reveals judf as nmhingness,
no Ihing, [hat the God (someone, reveals himsdf as "not
onc" or "nonc" (krin"). and nom there as "no onc" (Niml/md). A
no one whom it is (nill) possible to address (you. du):
o dner, 0 keiner. 0 Nicmand, 0 duo
The movcmcni from nothi ngness ro you indissociably links (he
movement of Ihe "encounter" and the movement of God's becom-
ing-anonymous. But one must also understand [hat it is the God,
and he alone, who makes possible the address or appeal. That is.
he prayer. God wilhout a name is needed in order to name, in
order to say to..in.voke, and.pcrhaps..thus to savc names.
Two poems evoke this movemem if one attempts (0 n:.id"rhem
together. The poem Gestirne" ("50 many constellations"),
that I have already quoted in part but whose last stanza I would
like to cite agai n:
ich weiss,
ich weiss und du ....OCiSSI, wir WUSSlen,
wit wussten nichl , wit
waren ja da und nichl don,
und tuweilen. wenn
nur das Niches zwischen uns sl2nd, f.mden
wir ganz zueinander.
I know,
I know and you know, we knew,
we did nOI know, we
were there, wer:.tll, and nOI there
and at limes when
only the void stood between us we gOt
alJ the way to each othcr.
And Ihe very diffi cult poem "Radix, Matrix":
Wie man tum Stein sprichl, wie
mir vom Abgrund her, von
ciner Heimat her Ver-
schwisterte, Zu-
gcschleudene, du,
du mir vorLCiren,
du mir im Nichts eincr Nacht.
du in der Abcr-Nacht Be-
gegnCle. du
Damals, da ich nicht da war,
damals, da du
den Acker abschritfst, allein:
wet wars, jenes
Gescble<:hl, jcnes gemordere, jenes
schwan. in den Himmel stehende:
RUle und Hode-?
( Wund.
Wund Abrahams. Wun.c:l Jesse. Ni em2ndcs
wie man zum Stein spricht, wie
mil meinen Handen donhin
und ins Nichls greifst, so
ist, was hier ist:
auch dies<: r
Fruchtboden klafTI ,
ist die cine der wild
blUhendcn Kronen.
Rnllmlber;lIg Dnus
As ol1e spe:lkl [0 SlOne, like
from Ihe chasm, from
a home become a
sister 10 me, hurl ed
towards me, you,
you that long ago.
you in the nothingness of a night ,
you in the multi-night en-
count ered, you
multi -you- :
At that time, when I was nOi there,
at that lime when you
paced the pl oughed field, alone:
who was ii, that
lineage, the murdered, [hat looms
black into the sky:
rod and bulb-?
(Root ..
Abraham's rool. Jesse's root . No one's
as one speaks 10 stone, as
wit h my hands grope into there,
and illl o nothi ng, such
is what is here:
this fertile
soil 100 gapes,
going down
is one of the
crests growing wild. 11
Among many olher things thi s at least is di sclosed: the poem
melds wi th the address ilself; there exists only a SOrt of nomi na-
tion without a name, a "saying-you." The address here-at leasl
this is one of the poem's possi bilities-is the very gestu re of love. II
does nOt say, it is. as such, rhe "encounter," starting from t he abyss
or nothingness. That is, starting from death itself; not only the
deat h-capabili ty of finirude, but, aggravat ing or having perma-
nentl y aggravated this, [he historicall y occurred death, the exter-
mi nati on. Start ing from annihilation (behind the motif of noth-
ing or nothingness, that particular nothingness is always prCSCllt. It
will have imposed a wholl y other form of the memorable, t he un-
forgett able; another formul ation of the question in general; an-
other partition of the thinkabl e and the unthinkable. It will have
alt ered thought ). But to address someone else, {Q love him. is nec-
essarily to address in him the wholly other, in the very recognit ion
of aheri ty and always under the th real Ihat the aherity might take
refuge in irs ab-sol uteness. The "you" is divided, and it is nOt only
in God that one half doses in on itself. The you is also an "Against
you" or a "Not-you" (Aber-dll), a name-incidentall y, untranslat-
able-that one fi nds again in "Zurich, Zum Storchen" ("Zilrich,
the Stork Inn"), a poem writt en in memory of an encounter with
Nel ly Sachs:
Vom Zuvicl war di e Rc.-de, vom
Zuwenig. Von 011
und Aber-Du. von
der T riibung durch Hclles, von
Judischem, von
dcinem Gon.
Of tOO much was our talk, of
100 li ttle. Of the You
and Not-You, of
how clarity troubles, of
Jcwi shncss, of
your God. lt.
Calling the You NOIYou says: if I cal l you, ir is ,he other in you
that I call in call ing you "you"; i, is the wholly other, il is God. It is
"no one," which remains your place of origin; you whom I call and
can c ..ll1 (and il is indeed love, or probably was). From nmhingness,
C.1.J1ing the wholly other. even if he is "no one," is the very possibil-
iry of address, of "speaki ng to," of "sayi ng-you"; the possibiliry of
Ihe poem as Ihe possibiliry of"re-lating to" in general. And it is in
this sense thai every poem is a prayer.
At least lImil Cclan writes the last poem in Lichtzwang:
Wirk nicht voraus,
sende nieht aus,
durch grilndet vom Nichts,
ledig al len
feinfugig, nach
der Vor-Schrin,
nehm ich dich auf,
sian aller
Do nOI work ahead,
do not send fonh,
into it, enter:
lransfounded by nothingness,
unburdened of all
microstruetured in heeding
Ihe pre-script,
I make you at home,
instead of all
rdt. 11
But il is also true that "unburdened of all prayer" remai ns a prayer,
or the cilation of one. As re-called in "Trcckschmenzcit" (" Hour of ')
the Barge"), anmher poem from LichrzWfll1g, it is MeiSler &:khan 's:
"Let us pray (0 God to keep us fret and dear of God. " Re-cited by
Celan, the prayer is addressed to God for him to stop the pain, the
pure pain that he is in us and between us. Or even, 10 SlOp the
agony that he is, Ihe agony of death:
. .. def Enthohle, geinnigt,
spricht umer den Stimen am Vfer:
Todts quill, Goues
... caSt from the throne, he turned inwards,
speaks among brows on the shore:
dear of death, d ear
of God. I'
One could probably say Eckhart's prayer condenses, (0 the great
CSI possible degree, all spttUlalive omo--theology. Bernard Boschen-
siein imerpretS Cclan's re-use of it thus:
The pott ... then uners the words of liberation: dear of death, dear I
of God. With these words, men would be freed of lheir burden; they
could consciously achieve double death: God's, and thai of death it-
sel( For these deat hs are linked. Death in Celan is a modern form of
Ihe divine presence. His poems receive from death their center of grav-
ity, their sense and thei r legibility. As the words' magnel, death is their
Structuring pole. With the death of death, a turni ng point is reached
that ordains a new fIOCation. The last poem in !ithtzwant. yields
the formul a: by nothingness, I unburdened of all I
prayer. "I' 1I is incumbent upon Ihe pott to accept this new founda-
tion and not 10 Ace into a distant worl d. lO
But we should not necessaril y understand it thi s way, if onl y be-
cause Eckhart's formulation, here truncated, modifi ed or diverted,
is removed from Ihe properly dialectical syntaJI it origi nall y pos-
sessed: let us pray to God to keep us dear of God. Thus. Cela n's
imroduclion or "dear of death" cannOl mean ''rhe death of death, "
which is reall y the Hegelian notion of God's death (,he resurrcc-
tion) and rhus the correct, speculati ve way to understand Eckhart's
phrase. Rather. Cc1a
's..furmulauon means; Civen thaLwe no
longer owe anything to dq rh, that we have no debt to jt or have
already paid it everything (rhe allusion is d ear), we are in cfreel-
and without asking God, "who ... walHcd all that I who ... knew
all that" -dear of God. The ci tation of the prayer is "unburdened
of all prayer, " The poem arrives in the prayer's stead and in its
place; rhe poem as it is henceforth uttered by the "deposed" or
"fallen," the desubJimed (d" Emhobu, who no longer inhabits the
heights), revealing precisely through this [hat "there is no longer a
God, n rather than Ihar "there is no God."
Celan's poelry would then perhaps also be the place where the
of poetry ceases to be prayer. Or more accurarely, where ir
renounces prayer.
3 Sublime
2 1, 1983 (Berktlry)
In J.- F. L.'s lect ure on Barnett Newman, "T he Sublime and the
Avant-garde," I found a passage on Burke particularl y striking.
J. -F. L.later gave me a copy of his text:
However much K:!.m rejecu Burke's thesis as empi ricism and phys-
iologism, however much he borrows, on the other hand, Burke's analy-
sis of the comradiction characterizing the .sentiment of the sublime.
he strips Burke's est hetic of what I think is its greatest value. which is
to show that the subl ime is provoked by tlu (hriarrhat nothing will
happrn allymorr. The beautiful gives positive pleasure. But there is an-
ot her son of pleasure, linked to a passion stronger than satisfact ion,
which is pain and the approach of death. In pain the body affects the
soul . But the soul can also affect the body as if it felt pai n of external
origin, just by means of representations unconsciously associated with
painful situations. This wholly spi ritual passion is called terror in
Burke's lexicon. But terrors are linked to being deprived: deprived of
lighl' terror of darkness; deprived of others, terror of solitude; deprived
of language. terror of silence; deprived of objects. terror of the void;
deprived of life, terror of dC';lth. What terrifi es is that the possibi lity of
the phrase " It does nOi happen: il ceases to happen.
In order for terror to commingle with pleasure and thus create the
sentiment of the sublime, it is also necessary. writes Burke, for the
threat that produces terror to be suspended, held at a di stance, re-
strained. This the lesseni ng of a threat or d:l. nger, provokes
:I. son of pleasure whi ch is certainl y nOI that of posi tive satisfaction.
88 DaUs
but nnhn of rdief. It is still privation, but once removed: the soul is
deprived of the threat ofbcing deprived of light, langu2gc:, life, Burke:
diningui shes the pleasure of second-degree priv:uion from posilive
pklSurc. chriucning it "ddight. "
Here, then, is how the sublime semimem is analyzed: an imposing,
powerful object, threatening to deprive the soul of any "II happens,"
"aslOnishcs" the soul (at lesser degrees of intensity, the soul is seized
wit h admiration, veneration, respecd. The soul is made stupid. im-
mobilized: il Sttms dead. In distancing this threat , :m procures the
pleasure of rel ief. delight. Thl nks 10 an, the soul is reslOred to the ag-
itat ion between life and death, and this agitat ion is its heahh and its
life. The sublime for Burke is no longer a question of dcvadon (which
is the cuegory by which Aristotle diS[inguished tragedy), it is a qUe$*
tion ofintensi hcalion.
This analysis describes what can be strictl y call ed the uOllOmyof
the sublime: the "threat that nothing wi ll happen anymore" (whi ch
creates terror), once suspended, still produces pleasure. The pai n,
at least, is relit."Ved. But it is an that suspends the threat and, in fact,
converts the pain into pleasure (or procures the "masochisri c" 5at*
isfaction that Freud connects to tragedy and relates to the para*
doxial tension consti tutive of "preliminary pleasure"). With this
in mind, J suddenl y understand eelan's mUTed, obstimtte rage
against art. At base it is quite si milar to Baraille's, st range as that
may seem. Was Bataille more radical? I'm not sure; less ironic and
playful, more emphatic, and not wit hout- I think it was Barrhes
who noted this-a certai n preciousness, encompassed in his "ha*
rred" of what Celan tries to save: poetry.
But this IOIge, tOO, responsible for the grandeur of modern an,
its hosti li ty toward the beautiful, its obsession with truth-which,
in a worl d without God, in the absence of a worl d, gives it all its
"metaphysical" tension- this rage, too, is perhaps vain. True,
"economy'" (of art, of poetry, of the beauti ful) is appalling in view
of ths: "realiry of the real," that is, death and pain. But here is an
old argument that Bataille himself recognized as he sought to
throw a wrench into the perfect dial ectical machi nery: what else
ca n one do with deat h except "simulate" it ? Again, he himself
Sublime 89
call ed such simulation "experience" (in a scnsc not dissimil ar to
mine), provided that rhe si mulation was pushed to the limit of the
possible. He thereby indicared what Celan, tOO, his
own way: that mimesis is the conditi on for the poSSibili ty of
thought. An ancient indication {i t appears already in Aristotle's
PMtia), but one that, unbeknownst to him, Kant can perhaps take
credit for having mapped Out in all its consequences; Heidegger
knew this without wanting to admit it, while NietzSChe had lucidly
int uited itS truth.
What we must think out is indeed the It IJappem that. But from
where do we begin to think if nor rhe starting point of "terror," the
threat that "It happens that" will Stop happening? In other words,
from where can we begin to thi nk, we to whom birth has been
"given," if not from rhe starting point of death? Death, that other
gift- or more exactly, the pro*spect of the and only one
enigma of our birth is before us). The questi on Celans
poetry. In this sense his poetry is sublime, though there no ques*
tion of either or "intensification." Celan's sublime could
be defined, rather, as the subli me of dmirurion.
Withal], does it produce pleasure? Yes, since pleasure is nccessar*
ily li nked to mimesis (Aristotle again). Yet pleasure in Celan is of a
very particular namre. One could qualify it as the pleasure of
thought. In fact, it would probably be more acculOlte to speak of
the of thought: a cont radictory emotion, owing more to
Kant's description than to Burke's. and which is basically compa*
rable to the sort of "syncopated" emorion that tragedy provokes
(but it is tragedy, the representation of the tragic cont radinion,
Ihat provides the model for the sublime). One can say ofCelan, :u
of Holderi in, that he is a tragic poet; perhaps even the last tragic
poct- the last "possible"; and one can mock this, as I have often
seen done, because only poetry is at stake. (I've also heard the re*
sponse to this att itude: "It killed him." But that not argu*
menl. O r if so, it pleads only in favor of the despair of facmg art
and the impossibiliry of interrupting it. 111e I wot.tldyn;*
fe r would be this: one could mock such poet ry and ItS subhml ty If
it were "earnest" verse, somethi ng that st ill exists in large quanti*
90 Remembering Dntl'S
tics. Bm Celan, in a cenai n, secret way one might call el usive.
seems sublime despi te hi mself We mUSt n Ol defl ect Onto Cclan the
pathos of some of his readers. And we must not forget, even in
Cdan's own pat hos- for it is rhere, despite his lapidary formula-
tion and rcsu ictcd phrasi ng- the sort of "Jcwish joy" [Freudt'], the
light. almost silent laugh, perhaps the counterpart to what saves
Holderl in from wall owing in the tragic: another joy, or rather a
serenity. in the seri ousness of his thought,)
From Kant and the Kant ian theory of the subli me, J.-F. L. re-
tai ns the concept of "negative presentation" (of the Idea), On the
basis of this concept, his formula for the subli me is: preseming that
the un-presentable exists.
I am not sure this formula is right, and the way I think Celan
deals wit h the question of the representable and the unrepre-
sentable confirms my uncertainry.
Blundy PUt, this formula has two Raws: it separates out the un-
presentable (posi ting its existence somewhere beyond presentation)
and in so doing, it substanti ai izes or hypostatizes it. By defi niti on,
only the presentable is presented. Therefore the un presentable, if
such a thing exists, cannot present itself. Or if it does, it is like the
Jewish God in the Hegelian analysis of sublimiry, breaking through
presentati on itsel f, annihilati ng it for its greater (dialectical) glory.
We would thus need to think, accordi ng (Q the (onto-theological)
ourline of negati ve presentation, that there is presentati on, not of
what is beyond presentaion, bur thnt there is something beyond
presenta tion. In whi ch case the presentation would indicate, in
what is present or insofar as it does present, its beyond.
But this beyond is nothi ng, it is not a part ofrhe unpresentable.
At most one can say, naturall y enough, that presentati on is trans-
ferred from the un presented. But the unpresented does not equal
the un presentable. Here is what happens when presentation at-
tempts to ind icate its beyond, or rather the (baseless) base, pure
nmhingness or pure openness, from which it detaches itself as pre-
sentation: in or level with presentation, the diffe rence of the pre-
sented from presentation presents itself. Difference docs not mean
inadequati on, as a la rge pan of modern art perhaps inevitably
holds, for modern art cultivates what is not beautiful ," that is, the
simple opposi te of the beautiful according to its classical definition:
the adequation of form to content. Nor does it mean the reduct ion
of presentati on to the puriry inherent in the phrase "There is pre-
sentation": the white square of the "minimal" that is the end point
of negative theology. But it o ~ mean the disappointment of pre-
sentation, or, more broadly. the disappointment that the presmtabk
n.:im. T he baseless base of presentation is indicated in the very dif-
ficulty of presentation; it does not "come naturall y." It is indicated
in a sort of internal diffe renti ation of presentation, or, I venture to
say, at the heart of the very faCt of presenting; indicated in a man-
ner (for it is indeed a maner of style) of maki ng apparent the non-
appearing that underpi ns or, more exactly, withdraws and encloses
itself in the midst of presentation. In a manner of maki ng appar-
ent the hiatus of presentation, of retracing the retreat that it is, of
rttreating it.
Modern art , "sublime" art, the art after "the end of an," shows
the pain of presentation; it is, or could be, joy itself-or serenity.
4 Hagiography
Deumber 7. 1983 (Strasbourg)
I page through the cnbi" de L'Hemevolume on Heideggcr that
Michel Haar scnt me. Gadamer's text-a series of "memori es"-
ends in the following way:
Among the many pilgrims who wen! up 10 Todlnauberg. Paul Celan.
tOO, paid a visit one day 10 the thinker; from their encounter, a poem
was born. Food for thought: a persecuted Jew, a poet who lived not in
Germany but in P;a ris, but a German poet nonetheless, risks such a
visil, nor wi thout some anxiety. He must have been greeted by that
for the era" (Augtntrou) that was the little coumry property
(AnWffl'1l) with ilS foumain by a starred wooden die"), and
the liule man, with his rustic appearance and twinkling gaze. He left
his name: in me: chalet's gucslbook as many had before him, with a few
lines ancsting to a hope he carried in his heart . He lOok a walk with
the thinker in soft moumain pastures, each of the men turned inward,
in his own isolation, like an isola(ed Rower ("orchis and Only
lat er. once he had returned home, did he sec clearly what had seemed
tOO appalling in the words Heidegger murmured while walking; hc be-
Vn to understand. He understood the audacity of a thought that an-
other ("the man") can hear without capturing itS meaning, the risk of
a step that moves forward on shifting terrain, like on the logging paths
one cannm follow to an end.
Here is [he poem:
Arnica. lillie-light balm,
the dixir of the fountain tOpped by the
starred wooden die;
in the
the lines on the book
- whose, the name named
inscribed in this book
me lines hoping, today.
for the word
to come
from a thinker,
at heart
Sylvan prairies of uneven earth,
orchis and orchis, isoiatedly,
Appalli ng, what later, en rome,
became clear
He who guides us, this man
listens to us tOO,
on the path
of logs
covered in mire,
One could emitle this pi ece "birth of a hagiography. "
My initial anger having passed. Marc B. de Launay's French
translation nevertheless holds my anemion. h is certainly more "ac-
curatc" than all the others, but it explicates t he poem strangely, at
least on two points. First, the Surnwiirftlofthe t hird verse:
Trunk aus dem Bmnncn mit dem
Sternwti rfel drauf
is rendered as: "the elixir of the fountain lopped by the I starred
wooden d ie." "Elixir" is clearly a result of Gadamer's edifying fa-
ble: "He ICelanl must have been greeled by the 'balm for the
(AllgmtroJl) [hal was the linle COUntry property (AIIWt'Jt'n) with irs
foumain ('lOpped by a starred wooden di e'), and the litt le man,
with his rustic appearance and twinkling gaze, " Dri nki ng a draught
of water at said foumain seems nearly like imbibing a miraculous
elixir .... BUI the "srarrcd wooden die" is only possible i f olle is
familiar with the Anwtlnl in question-and if one translates, even
in German, the format ion Stemwiirftl Such a is plau-
sible. and eliminates the sole image ,hat thi s poem without images
might sti ll have contained. It should perhaps be given credit for its
prosaic quality.
The second point concerns the verses:
Krudcs, sparer, in Fabren,
which are expli cated in the following manner: what
later, en route, I became dear. " Marc B. de Launay could not have
translated otherwise; after all, he had to transcribe Gadamer's in-
terpretation. ("Only later, once he had rerurned home, did he see
dearly what had seemed tOO appalling in the words Heidegger
murmured while wal king; he began to understand. ") I have been
tOld more than once-and not only by D. C.-that Celan had re-
turned from the encounter in a state of despair. The expression
B.B. used was even: "I saw him when he returned to Fr:lIlkfurt; he
was sick about it. Yes, the birth of a hagiography.
5 The Power of Naming
"(he..question impliesi the wholly o.ther-again
I come back to this-is d uble: it concerns the existence of rhe
wholly ot her, but also, at the same time, the possibility of.speak-
ing in hjs name (or in his abscnce-of-name). Inasmuch as J( con-
cerns the existence of the wholly other, it implies another, under-
lying question, perhaps the only question of "The Meridian": is to
exist simply to be? To attempt to formulate it once again: it goes
without saying mat only what is, exists-in the mode ofbclng. But
does that reall y mean that exiStence consists solely of "being (.?m)
in the mode ofbcing (itam)"? The question applies first to man,
the only creature who, as Rousseau says, "feels
feeli ng as Celan's writing al lows us to approach It IS contained In
three "abili ties": the abi lity to die, the abil ity to receive (relate to),
and the abili ty to think (perceive). ThL'S( three arc united in the
ability to speak, through which the fact of presence is generally at-
tcsted, and also through whi ch man, att esting that he is (present),
attests who he is: the one who exists as thc bei ng capablc of anest-
ing presence and absence in general.
Existence would thus be language, or more precisely, the faculty
oflanguage. which, in the bei ng (tlmll) that is man, docs uot come
undcr the headi ng ofbcing-so that man "is" not only the bci ng
that he is. The facul ry of language, the abili ty to name. is in reality
intimacy irself, the imimare differentiation of the being. Through
this differentiation, man, beyond what he is, corresponds to a be-
ing (I';,") by naming what is, by naming himself, by nami ng who
he is nor (God). For this reason language is nor, in ilS essence,
purely and simpl y bei ng (tfflnt); yet there is language, or language
exists-like the possi bility of relating ro (addressing), whi ch is
cl oser ro our ori gins than any form of "communication. " Language
is the other in man; it constitutes him as man Man does
nOt hall(! language in the sense of possession or property; "language
is what is proper to man" means that man is constituted beginning
with language; he is not its masrer (on the COntrary; language op-
erates a strange dispossession, attracting man-wimin himself-
outside of himself). This is the mOlif of "pre-scription" (Vor-Schrift).
Language is the essence, the inhuman essence, of man; it is his
Thus, language can be considered man's origi n. Not as God is,
according to me olllo-theological structure established in the first
lines of the founh gospel ' Eu Qpxii iiu Q .Bur as mat by whi ch
man is necessarily related to the ot her, and thence to [he wholl y
other, so that God is not language, but its supposition, or at least
whar irresistibly draws it. It is perhaps what has been called
anima, the soul, provided these words c2rry no echo of any sub-
Stance, that is, of any subj ect.
tJ the &2ping of me subjw.
c..g.aping is bngu.age. Language in the intmor inrimo
that onto-theology confused with God.
From that might foll ow this: when pocu:y accomplishes its task,
which is to push itself to the origin oflanguage (a rask that is by
defi nition impossible); when it strains to "dig" right to language's
possibility; i.uncDUOlttS, at me me inaccessible and for-
eva-concealed gaping, the nako:i-possibility of address.
And from that would [hen follow this: if God exists, he exists as
a speaking being, and is thus himself subjcct to language. The fact
I that he is now silellt, lhal he has ceased to speak, perhaps deli vers
us from rhe irresistible magnetization he creates in language; it de-
71" of Naming 97
livers us from prayer. One might [hen catch sight of a wholl y other
poetry, which is perhaps what Celan did glimpse in the end, and
what made him despair.
6 rain
Perhaps all I've ever done is move back and forth, more or less
unwittingly. between two or three passages of Heideggcr's
wq,r z.ur Sprodu Way to which I recently reread
after an abundance of Olhcr reading:
Experience means lundo asstqui, 10 obtain something along Ihe way.
[0 :lfIllin something by goi ng on a way. I
To undergo an expcricnct wi,h something--be il a thing, a person, or
a god-means thai this something bef.tlls us, strikes us, comes us,
overwhelms and uansforms us. When we talk of "undergoing" an 0;.
perience, we mean speci fically ,hal the experience is nOi of OUT own
making; [0 undergo here means thai we endure ii, suffer it, reedY(' it
as it suikes us and submit to il.
BUI the more joyful the joy. (he more pure the sadness slumbering
within it. The dccper the sadness, the more summoning the joy rcsting
within il. Sadness and joy play into each other. The play itself which
anuncs the two by letting ,he remOte be near and the near be remote
is pain. 11lis is why both, highest joy and deepest sadness, are painful
each in its way. But pain so touches the spirit of mortals that theipirit
gravity fmm. pain. That gravity keeps monals with all thcir
wavering at rest in Iheir being. The.spirit which_a.lliiwers {O pain. the
spirit auuncd by pain and 10.pain .is.melancholy.3
But what is Pain rends. II is the rift. But il docs not lear apart
into dispersive fragments. Pain indeed tears asunder, it separalcs. yet
50 that at the same time: it draws everything to ilSClf, g:lIhers il to it-
sdf. Its rending, as a sep.trating that galhers. is It the sa.me lime ,hat
drawing which, like the pen-drawing of a pll n or sketch, draws and
joins together what is hel d apan in separation. Pain is the joining
agent in the rending th.tl divides and gat hers. Pain is the joining of
the rift .... Pain joins the: rifl of the difference. Pain is the dif-ference
In connecting these: texu, I think of the passage from the letter
10 Junger, Zur which happens to deal wit h lines and
meridians (Junger's expression is zcro meridian," by whi ch he
means the boundary of nihil ism, considered by Heidegger to be an
insurmountable barrier). I think of the passage in whi ch Heideg-
ger, speaki ng of his work on the negative and its pain in the
Hegelian dialectic, suggests that d;\y<x; and A6yoC; have a common
root. It hardly matters whether this is true or not. T he idea is that
a consrraint more ancient than philosophy made the height of phi-
losophy "logi c," that is. the thought of pain. T hat Heideggds
ceaseless return to the motif of pain in his readings of Holderlin,
Trakl . George-of poetry-is a sure indication that in his eyes. it is
urgent to pry the essence of pain. and thus of language. away from
its negative. laborious and servile definition. Or that it is urgent to
thi nk of difference as orner than negati ve. Had I been capable of
it, I would have shown that in this sense, Celan's poetry is a poetry
of pain; I would have shown that that is lyri cism.
There is anot her passage in UllurwtgJ zltr Spracht; it concerns
solitude (and thi s one, when I read it, rang no bell , however faint .
in my memory):
Only he can be lonesome who is not alone, if "not alont''' means nOt
apar(, singular, without any rappons. But it is precisely the absence in
the lonesome of something in common whi ch persists as the most
bindi ng bond //Jith il. The in lonesome is the Gothic Sl1mll, ,he
Grt:ek llama, and the English Sil mt. "Lonesome" means: Ihe same in
wJm unites that whi ch belongs together.
' 00 Rmlr mbmllg Dlltn
Could this be rhe staning poi nt for trying to understand the prob-
lem of what Celan calls ''the encounter"? But to what community
could (the poem's) solitude, rhe lack of community, be related in
the most sociable manner? Perhaps me one that incarnates not the
lack, bur the of all communi ry. Such a designation
goes, not excl usIvely hut first, to rhe Jewish Dir Ninll(111m.
rose is dedicated ro Osip Mandelstam.
PostScript: a few days later, ) . Le R. me a translat ion of
"Tiihingen, j anncr" by Jean-Pierre Lefebvre. It follows:
H is eyes worn down
unto blindness by discourse,
Their- enigma is pure
gushing (orlh"-, their
memory of
Holdcrlin rowers encircled
with seagulls' cries.
His drowned joiners' visits to
diving words:
If there came.
if there came a man.
if a there arne a man into the ....1)rld, today, wim
Ihe beard oflighl of
the Patriarchs: he could,
if he spoke of this
rime. he
could only mumble, and mumbl e
still. mu-mumble all-
ways. ways.
(" Pallak.sch. Pal lak.sch. R)'
Earlier J. Le R. had drawn my anemion [0 ,he motif of blind-
ness "as lucidity." He cited as suppon for hi s claim these verses
from NimlOndsrost:
sagt, dass uns aJJcs erstarb.
da uns das Aug br3ch?
Al les erwachte, alles hob an.
says th:1t everyt hing died for us
when our eyes broke?
Everything awakened, everything began?
' 00
I was reminded of a passage in Blanchm's a parur
lAst to
Perhaps the recourse-is it a recourse. an 10 give one-
self over, beyond the language mesh ("Eye's roundness betwttn the
bars. R)I to wai ling for a wider gaze, for the possibility of seeing. of see-
ing without me very words that signifY sight:
Do nOt rt'ad any more-look!
Do nOt look any more- go!'
Sight , (hen (perhaps), but always in o/movement, associated
wit h movemem. As if [he idea was to go loward (he appeal of eyes
that see beyond what there is to see: "eyes world-blind,"'o "eyes
submerged by words, umoblindness";11 eyes ,h:oI.{ look (or have
Iheir place) "in me fissure of dying."1l
Eyes world-blind,
eyes in the fissure of dying, eyes, eyes ...
Do not read any more-look!
Do not look any more- goPJ
In Holderlin, t he most lucid blindmen are and especially
Oedipus (a surfeit of eyes). II was [0 this motif I sought to relate
the "eyes submerged by words. UllIO bli ndness," as Bl anchOl trans-
lates. The gaze beyond the gaze, the view of beyond-viewing,
would be spa". But in "Tiibingen, Janncr, " the spareness becomes,
in Ihe absence of eloquence, pitiful stammcring.
7 Ecstasy
March 5. 1984 (Strasbourg)
The model for ecstasy in the is the rapture that seizes
Rousseau when he regains consciousness after an accident that 0(.
curs as he descends the hi ll from Menil montam to Paris ("Second
Night comi ng on. I saw the sky, some Stars, and a few leaves.
This first sensation was a moment of delight. I was consci ous of noth-
ing clse. In thi s install! I was being born again, and il seemed as if all
I perceived was filled with my frail existence. Emirely rakcn up by the
prt'SCm, I could remember nothing; I had no disri nC( notion of my-
self as a person, nor had I the least idea of wh,l! had just happened 10
me. I did not know who I was, nor I was; I felt neither pai n,
fear, nor anxiety. I WlI tched my blood Rowing as J might have watched
a SHearn, without even thinki ng that the blood had anything !O do
wi th me. I felt throughout my whole being such a wonderful calm,
that whenever I recall this feeling I can fi nd not hing ro compare with
it in all the pleasures that nir our lives. I
It is O( naordinary here t hat ecsrasy is not presemed as a "going
Out of t he self," as it is always t OO quic.kJy and simplistically put.
On the comrary, it is expressed fi rst as night 's advance and arrival
("Night was coming on"), and t hell as the reception- before the
auil)Or gets hold of himself or rerurns (0 hi mself, before even rhe
appearance of the perceivi ng "[n_of this advance, whi ch happens
' OJ
by itself, and in which no "subject ," in any case, has t he least
sponsibili ry. And it is exactl y such an advance and reception that
give the feeli ng of existing, a feeling that is itself anteri or 10 any
form of self-consciousness, and so liule connected with a subject
t hat it simultaneously reaches all earthl y objects (" It seemed as if
ali I perceived was fi ll t-d with my frail existence"); the result , con-
versely, is t hat even the "body itsclr (blood) is perceived as some-
t hing belonging to the eart h (a stream), and is drawn into t he same
fecling of "it exists. n
Rousseau's ecstasy here takes the form of what I have called, for
lack of a ben er word, the paradoxic:a.l experience of death; that is,
its simulation. It is why Rousseau can say "In thi s instant I was
ing born again," if, as I have arrempted (0 articul ate, death is t he
pro-speet of the gift of birth. It is t hus a paradoxical experience of
birt h (i ntO t he worl d)-perhaps even of the birth of me worl d. In
the firmest possible manner, u lan calls t his birth "pcrceiving," or
thinking, and assigns its task to poet ry.
8 Vertigo
Marc" 25, 1984 ( Tiibingm)
With R.L on {he banks of the Neckar. near the rower.
Some time ago, Bonargem, an engraver who produces lux
ury roitions of books, published a collection of "quotati ons" from
Suiu,' accompanied by etchings and entided (Whirl ).
But beyond. or rat her, before anecdote, I thi nk here of Celan's
dizziness (J would learn morc about this in Nice in February 1985,
during a convers nion with Ikrnard Boschenstcin), I n=read:
The prisoner of a dosed but unbordered space. I am sucked in by an
eddy; and thw. owing (0 (he swirling, I am brought back to a IOnul'e
from which I have tried. in vai n, ( 0 move aw:ay: resembling, even in
my own eyes, a rambling, repetiri ve old man incap3bl e of sil ence, and
incapable myself of either raking off this mask or identifying with its
There is a sentence In "The Meridian" that 1 haven't dared
touch. II says:
Die Di ehlUng, mci ne Damen und Herren- : dies<: Unendlieh-
sprechung von lau[er S[erbli ehkei t und Umsonst!l
Blanchot translates:
Poetry, Ladi es and Gentlemen: the word of the infinite, {he word of
vai n death and of sole Nothing.
Ou Bouchet:
l'oc:IrY-: a conversion into the infinite: of pure monal ity and the dead
lell er.'
(Why did du Bouchet systemati cally el iminate "Ladies and Gen-
tl emen" from "The Meridi an"?)
Jean Launay:
Poetry, Ladies and Gentlemen-: those infinite words thoU t!Cat only
what is mOftal and uscless.
And if I venture to translate:
Poetry, Ladies and Gentl emen-: thaI infi nite speaking of pure mor-
tality and the in-vain.
9 Blindness
April I). 1984 (Barcelona)
In den vcrfuhrencn Augen- li es da:
In , he eyes all awry-read there:
This is {he first verse of (he poem globes," in Die Niema"ds-
roll'. The poem ends thus:
h defines love.
. 06
das Schwerste noch, war
flugge, njehu
hid, zuriick.
AJJ things.
even ,he hoviesl, were
fledged, nothing
held back.
IO Lied
April21, 1984 ( Todmallberg)
The dcfallh of God.ADd .be ,Ij\(inities.il-absc:na. But abseo.ce is not
nOlhing; rather it is p.!eciscly Wc.prc.sence, whi ch must first be appro-
priated, of the hidden fullness :.l.nd wealth of what has been and wh:.u,
thus gathered, is presencing. of the divine in the world of the Grttks,
in propheti c Judaism, in the preaching of Jesus. This no-longer is in
itself a not-yet of the veiled arrival of ilS inexh:.l.USlible n:llure.
Von dei nem Got! war die Rede, ich sprach
ihn, ich
liess das Hen, das ich
sci n h&hsICS, umrOchehcs, sci n
haderndes Won-
Dein Aug sah mir ZIJ. sah hinwt.'g,
dein Mund
sprach sich dem Aug 7.U, ich hone:
wissen ja ni cht , weiSSI du,
. 07

108 Rt'11It'mbning Darn
wissen ja niche,
gi lt.
Of your God was our talk, I spoke
againsl him, I
lCI the heart that I had
his highcst. dealh-ranlcd, his
quarrel ling word-
Your eye looked on, looked away,
your mouth
spoke its way 10 the eye, and I heard:
don't know, you know,
don't know, do we?
The path indeed bears his name: Weg (but af-
Terward, to get to the chalet, we still have to walk across fields in
the snow. The noise of the mechanical ski lift doesn't SlOp umil
about five o'clock).
There has been much ironic commentary on the path motif:
Fr/dweg, Hoizwege, Umerwegs. Wrgmarkm. and so on. So much for
rusti c charm. Bur where in philosophy, and even outside philoso-
phy (in Eastern thought, for example), have people picrurcd
thought as other than a path? From Parmenides and to
./ l::lcidcgger. (I don't remember who old me that J. D. did a semi nar
on this subject, using the short text I had more or less "establ ished"
and translated with Roger Munier: "The Flaw In Sacred Nawes."
i n it, Hcidegge.t3n.vents" an aphorism on Creck..thought: "A p;u.!1
Celan could nO[ fail to think of Heidegger and the path motif
Lied 10
when writing "The Meridian," and even "The Bremen Speech."
Not only poetry itself (all poems), but also the thought of poetry
appear there as paths. Some people have of course objected to me
tlta! this morifis related to Benjamin's "itinerari es," to his praise of
Ihefld"eurand the Baudelairian "encounrer." But I do not think
Ihis connection is correct. If Benjamin is to be found in Celan-
and he is-we should nO[ look for him here. I remai n convi nced
that the "dialogue" with Heidegger is critical, at least for the issue
of poetry's essence. That is why the encounter of 1967, in this very
place, took on such importance in Celan's eyes.
From the beginni ng, I made a rule for myself that I would not
[eeounr rhe story of this encoumer and its aftermath. Or [hat I
would divulge onl y things that Celan himself had said, and [hat
had been recorded in various places. h is nor for me to say more.
But I can at least report on a text that WHo passed along to me:
an article that appeared- WHo does not know when; what he gave
me was a copy of the manuscri pt-in rhe Liechtensteinisches Volks-
blatt.3 T he author is Robert Ahmann. an editor friendly with
Celan. Prompted to write by a series of articles published in the
biridler ZLittmg in honor of Heidegger, and in parricular by an
tide by Beda Allemann on Heidegger's relation to poetry. Al tmann
si mply presents the facts:
n whose tide comes from the place in the Black Forest
whe-;;"Heidegger played host 10 the poet in the spring of 1967.
pcared in print in 1968. Earlier, I had published the Attmkristaff col-
lection with engravings by Gisele Cclan, and Celan expressed Ihe wish
to sec his poem published in a small , separate edition. We chose the
same format as that of the previous edition, and we had fifty num-
bered copies of the bound poem printed on the hand presses at Fcquet
et Baudier in Paris. In August 1968. the edition was exhibited at the
Radu7. Icchnical school, along with all [he works published by Editions
Brunidor. Cdan came in person and gave, one evening, a reading of
his poems. It was one of his last readings, as he look his life several
rnomhs laler.
is, strictly speaking, nothing other than a deserip-
lion of the journey 10 the philosopher's hOllse: flowers, landscape,
" 0 Rmumbfrillg Daw
fountain, 3 trip in :. Clr. But as always with Celan, e:.Ich word hides a
world of images and ideas. balm for the is :'11 once an
clrly summer field Rower and a medici nal plant. the sick man's hope
of cure and consolation. drawn from the star-crownoo foumain.
which is similar, we might say. to a miraculous source. BUI then comes
the poem's central point, that Beda A1lemann interprets as the expec-
tation of the poet 10 come, in the sense of Kltiu's pot"t of the future:. I
believe, however. that this viewpoint does nOi enconlpass Celan's in-
tention, which was to ask, and impose, the question of thc philoso-
pher's position vis-a-vis his Hitler-era declarations. Cetan writcs some-
thing in the guest book aboul the hope that Hcidcgger will explicitly
disrance himself from his earlicr mitude. ThaI a doubt should surfatt
following this question connected with hofK' is evident in the poem's
descripti on, in a sudden change orl:andscape: the marsh, the uneven
fields, the damp and muddy paths succeed and undo the image of
spri ngtime and hope. The dialogue witnessed by the anonymous
chauffeur is then transformed inlO a monologue, as always in Celan;
he was able to c!'Cate a solirary and grandiose work from the tragic im-
b;alantt of his elll ire life.
Heidegger's let terA indeed avoided the crucial quest ion. The re-
deeming mponse fai led 10 come. Nevertheless, for the poet this en-
counter was an interior eXfK' rience of gre;al importance. Poet ;and
philosopher both Strove to grasp the meaning of Ihe total;artist ;and
rotal language. <:elan's suffering and struggle for absolute expression
led him, from that time on, 10 increasingly interiorized forms of
writing ....
The poet closely oversaw the production of the
Now the poem, born of an intensely topical question, remai ns itself,
indefK'ndem of temporal circumstances. From the small bibliophile's
edition, copies weill only to fri ends and a few li braries. None was sold.
It was certainly CeI,ms wi sh to CUI off any kind of discussion with
Heidcgger. This explains, 100, why nothing became public later on, as
Beda Allemann notes. The theme had been transformed into a purely
Altmann's very simple description suggests thai is
perhaps a pure Lird. The last?
II Sky
I necessarily scruple [Q speak about Judaism. Yel wi th Celan, one
InUS. But I cannOI. Not onl y my ignorance is at issue. It is marc a
quest ion of propriery.
Thus, I can approach only negati vely the element of Celan's po-
el ry thai clearl y proceeds from the Jewish tradition, t he essence
that is probably only readabl e with an understanding of that tradi-
tion. For example, everyt hing I have painfully tri ed to articulate on
poetry as prayer aims solel y to ml.'asure the di stance bcrween the
(so-called, dearly non-existent) "theology" He: idcgger asks of Hol-
derl in, and rhe question of God t hat haunls Celan's poetry, perhaps
to the very end.
Perhaps to the: ve:ry end; Il hink of [he poem in the final collce
lion, (Fnnnsuad ofTinu), thai 50 dearl y responds, stili
and again, to Holderlin:
lch Irink Wein aus zwei Glasern
lind 7.3ckere an
wie Jener
am Pind:lr,
Gon gibl die St immgabcl :lb
:lIs einer der klei nen
aos der Losuommd fa ll!
unser Dcul.
I drink wine from twO glasses
and comb through
Ihe Icing's cacsura
like lila[ onc
with Pindar,
God turns over the tuning-fork
alone of the small
juSl ones,
from the fare-engine falls
our measure. I
I tri ed [0 translate the poem several years ago. I gave up, not
knowing how to render offered in the Engl ish as
which survives only in fixed expressions (for exampl e, 11m
bnser, "nor one whit better
), means something in.
significant or rriAing: a near nothing. The poem rakes up the
Holderlini an quest ion of measure and the law, rhe quest ion of the
poem "'n Lovely Blueness": Is there a measure on earth? Or the
one Holderlin illuminates in the fragment of Pindar entitled "Das
H&hste" ("The Highest") , which he rcstitutes thus:
Das Gesc:z,
Von al len de! Konig. Sterblichcn und
Unucrblichcn; das tuhfl eben
Darum gcwahig
Das gercchl csle Recht mit aJlcrh&hsler Hand.
The law,
King of all , mortals and
Immortals: it indeed drives
Powerfull y, for that reason,
Jusli cc most JUSt with the highest hand.
The "response" to Holderlin is that of Jewish messianism. Was it
in Buber, Scholem, or Benjamin (hat I read, a long while back, [his
parable of the Messiah? He is [here, always, at every instant: or
rather, he always t here JUSt an instam ago: the beggar who jusl
left Ihe room or the little man who jusr rurned the sn eer corner.
Measure, what sets the tone, is nOl Pindar's 6iXIl, bUI the just man,
lhe JUSt little man. God is still the one who metes measure out, but
al most in the way one might get rid of something. And what raIls
in the way of destiny is insignificant. But t hat is JUSt the poi nt ...
Where can the distance between the twO poets best be measured?
ri rst, of course, in Celan's elimination of all reference to t he sacred.
Everything Heidegger was abl e to construcr from two verses of
Wenn Am Feiertage" ("As On A Holiday"),
Jent aber tagts! Ich ham und sah C$
Und was ich sah, das sci mein Won.
But now day breaks! I waited and saw it come,
And what I saw, the hallowed, my word shall convey.'
is foreign- though not abJoluuly foreign- tO Celan. Not
foreign is Ihe designation of the "sacred" (a word which to
my knowledge he never used) as lhe Open (chaos, gaping, wild
vastness). Celan, tOO, speaks in this direction. The allusion to
dar's caesura" is qui te clear: an allusion to the impossible
immediacy, or more exactly the impossible immediate atrainment
of immedi acy (the Open), whi ch is nevenheless the very media-
tion in, and origin of, any kind of rel ation. But for Celan, the
O pen is not the sacred, and poetry's task is not name the
cred." First, no doubt , because me sacred is not "the cl emem of the
divine."5 In t his sense the experience of [he sacred is absolutely for
cign to Celan.
But that is relatively secondary. Something much more crucial
is at issue, or al least, somcthing that does not simpl y parricipa[e
in thc facil e (and easil y util ized) opposition between Greek "pa-
ganism" - pol ytheism- and Jewish monotheism. (r Ot conceivi ng
the divine, Ihe God or God, the opposi[i on is perhaps without
consequence. And for belief and faith, J wonder jf [he same isn'[
true; I wonder 100 if Christianity, if is csscmially founded
on Ihis opposition, is nOi ultimately responsible for our ")
Could anyt hing lx: more crucial?
The question, perhaps present , of man's resemblanct
to (the) God.
Heidcgger makes this , he lOpic of a long commentary thai forms
the Ie<:turc "dichtcrisch wohner der Mensch" (" Poeticall y Man
Dwclls")6- a Iccture, as it happens, on "In Liehlicher Bl auc" (" In
Lovely Blueness") and on the question, as it happens, of measure.
The verses Hcidegger anal yzes are the foll owing:
Darf. wenn !:J.uler Milhe das Leben, do Mensch aufschauen li nd
sagen: so will ich 3uch scyn? Ja. Sohnge die Frcundlichkcit noch 3m
Htncn, die Reine, daucn, misse! nich! unglukli ch der Mensch sich
mil deT Gonhcit. lsi unbckannt Gott? [51 er offcnbar wic dcr Him-
mel ? Diescs glaub' ich eher. Des Menschen Ma;;lSS ist's. Voll Verdienst,
doch dichterisch, wohnet der Mensch auf dies<: r Erdc. Doch rciner ist
nicht der $chauen der Nacht mit den Stemen, wenn ich so S3gen kon-
me. als der Mensch, der heiSS(" t ei n Bild der GO!thcil. Giebt es auf Er-
den ein Maass? Es giebt keines.
May, when life is all trouble, maya man
Look upwards and say: I
Also would like to be thus? Yes. As long
As kindness? which is pure. lasts in hean,
Man nOl unhappily can measure himself
Wi, h the divine. God unknown?
He as the sky? This
I rather believe. It's the measure of men.
Full of meri t' but poetically man
Li ves on this earth. But ,he shadow
Of ni ght with the stars is not purer,
If I could put it like that, than
Man, who is called the image of God.
Is there a measure on earth? There is
Radi cally reducing Heidegger's "demonstration" to its struclll ral
impeTUS esrabli shes that:
I. In lifting hi s gaze roward the sky and its inhabitants. man-
whose life, mherwise, is "all troubl e" and in that sense "full of
meri, " -"measures all the distance that separates us from the sky,"
t hat is, "all that is between sky and earth. " The di stance, the space
1>Clween, is what Heidegger call s the Dimension, whi ch he con-
siders the origin of the very relation between sky and earth, and
thus, the ori gin of space as such and of human habi tation. Man's
term on eanh starts with the Dimension. (Of course. that is not
where the difference li es. I mean t hat this other opposition, be-
tween habitat ion on one hand-Greek. German, and so on- and
wandering and nomadism on t he other- Jt:ws, and ot hers-is also
weak. Dwelling, being zuhatlu. is, for example, e clan's primary
preoccupation. )
2. The pre-eminent means of taking the measure- according
[0 " hi s own f.l Etpou" and "thus also hi s own metri cs"- is poetry. It
opens man's term on earth as inhabiting, or living, a poet." But
for poetry, taking the measure is always to something cc-
lestial" and measuring oneself wit h it : "Man not unhappil y can
measure hi mself f With the divine." Man takes the measure, not
from the ea rth iuelf (" Is there a measure on earth? T here is f
None. "), but, inasmuch as this gives his measure as a mortal being
(able to die), from t he Divinity. The measure is "the Divinity with
which man measures himself."
J. The Divinity. or rather God, is the mca5ure in that he is un-
known. Here Heidegger anal yzes the central passage of the verses
he extracted from the poem;
The question begins in li ne 19 wit h the words: God unknown?"
Manifestly nOl . For if he were unknown. how could he, being un-
known. ever be the measure? Yet-and this is what we mWiI now listen
10 and keep in mind- for Holderlin God. as Ihe one who he is, is un
known and it is JUSt as this Unknown Onl Ihal he Ihe measure for
the poet. This is also why Holderlin is perplexed by the exci ting ques-
tion: how can that whi ch by ilS very nature remai ns unknown ever be-
come a mt'3SUre? For solll et hing Ih:l l man measures himself by IllUSt
after all impan itself, must appear. SUI ifi, appears. it is known. Th('
god, however. is unknown. :lnd he is the measure nonethel ess. NOI
,, 6 &mnllbaillg Dares
only Ihis, but the god who remains unknown, must by showing him-
stlJas the one he is, appear as the one who remains unknown. God's
manijNtness-nol only he hi mself- is mysterious. Therefore the poet
immediatel y asks the ncxt question: he manifest like the
Holderl in answers: sooner I Bel ieve the
Why-so wt now ask- is the poet'S surmise incl ined in that way?
The very next words give t he answer. They say tersely: " It 's the mea-
sure of What is the measure for human measuring? God? No.
The sky? No. The manifesmess of the sky? No. The measure consists
in the way in which the god who remains unknown, is revwed as such
by the sky. God's appearance through the sky consists in a disclosi ng
that lets us see what conceals irself, hut lets us see it n OI by seeking ro
wrest what is concealed out of its concealedness. but only by guarding
(he concealed in its self-concealment. Thus the unknown god appears
as the unknown by way of the sky's manifesmess. This appearance is
the measure against whi ch man measures himself.11
This anal ysis is surprising.
Surprisi ng. because on one hand it recognizes the absol ute para-
dox of God's manifestation, or more exactly his revelation ( Offin-
baTkeit, Holderlin's questi on being "1st er offenbar wi e der Him-
mel?"): "At me same ti me he shows himself as the one He is," God
appears "as the one who remains unknown." God thus reveals him-
self as not revealing himself in appearing or manifes tation. The rev-
elati on is nor an appearance. If Heidegger's reading is correct, if
Holderli n's "rarher"-"This I rather believe"-is not a restriction
as to the unknown being of God, it means: God. the unknown,
shows himself as the sky docs; he is as mani fes t as the sky. But it is
the (sky's) manifestat ion that is eni gmati c. For how is rhe sky man-
ifest, if not here-"In Lovel y Blueness" -as the pure void of bot-
tomless li ght . the pure spacing, above our heads. of air and light
(Ether); the spacing that outli nes, rather than bei ng outli ned by.
the eanh; the spacing, our of whi ch the earth's space spreads and
all things become visible, articul ate themsel ves? God shows or re-
veals himself in the same way as the sky's pure opening-the
"abyss," as Celan would say; as the ceaseless ebb, on and right
against the whole surface of the visible, the invisible from whi ch
" 7
the visible streams. And even when the sky shows itself in its "qual-
iti es," as Holderli n says in another poem,
' 2
Ii ght's luminosity con-
ti nues ro withdraw to it as its very appearance.
Bur if Heidegger reads somethi ng of this order in Holderlin-
which is probable, given the connection he makes to the poem
"What is God?"'J-then it is impossible to say rhat for Holderiin,
"the measure consists in the way in whi ch the god who remains un-
known, is revealed as such. by the sky (durch dm Himmel)." Hol-
derlin does not say that God shows himself"by way of the sky," but
rat her, to express it a bit differentl y, that he is evident as the invis-
ible is evident. wit hdrawn into the visible as its visibi lity. Holder-
lin's thought is here unrelated to, say. Hegel's: Das Offinbarle iSI
IIftr dass Gott deT Offinbare isl. This does not mean, as people are
in the habit of translati ng, "The reveal ed is simply that God can
be revealed," bur instead, revealed (that which is revealed) is
si mply that God is the revealed (the manifest). " Whereas Hegel
conceives revelat ion's perfect being-in-evidence, Holderli n thinks
of its abyss. This, in fact, is why the logic animating the verses-
What sends irsdf into st rangeness
Is alilhe more invisible
- is completel y unconnected to dial ectics. Despite all appearances
to the contrary. Unli ke the Hegel ian Absolute, God, for Holder-
lin, does nOt want "to be at our side." But the more he sends him-
self into "the sky's aspect," whi ch is unknown to him, the more
he himself as invisible. Thus Heidegger can say: "T he
poet call s, in rhe sights of the sky, that which in its very self-
disclosure causes the appearance of that which conceal s itself, and
indeed as that whi ch conceals itself. In [he familiar appearance, the
poet call s the ali en as that to which the invisible impartS itself in
order to remain what it is-unknown. "'" But [hen it suddenly be-
comes d ear, and makes Heidegger's analysis surprising for a second
time, that the structu re of the revelat ion is none ot her than [hat
of aletheia itsel f; hence, in a mode doubtless no longer metaphysi-
cal, the olllo-theological risk is still preselll , and all the more so
u8 Remember;ng DIUes
when God is conceived from the initial question "whm is God1" It
is perhaps this horiw n that forces Hcidegger, in
the very gesture he uses (Q remove the whole problematic of imi-
tation from his commemary (a problemali c which is, however, ex-
plicit in rhe poem) (Q defi ne taki ng the measure not as the imita-
tion of "reserve" or di vine reneat, but as the image- ri ch language
of poetry that "makes us see the Invisible":
The poet makes poetry only when he takes the measure, by saying the
sights ofheavcn in such a way thai he submits!O its appearances as to
the alien dement to which the unknown god has "yielded. n Our CUT-
rent name for the sight and appearance of somet hing is "imagen (Bild).
The nature of the image is to lei somclhing be seen. By connaSt, copies
and imitations arc already mere variations on the genui ne image which,
as a sight or spectacle, lets the invisible be seen and so imagines the in-
visible in something alien to it. Because poetry takes that mysterious
measure, 10 wit, in the face of the sky, therefore it speaks in
This is why poetic images are imagi ni ngs (Ein-bildllng(1l) in a disti nc-
tive sense: not mere fa ncies and illusions but imaginings that are visible
inclusions of the ali en in the sight of the familiar. IS
I am not saying that "In Lovely Blueness" is not haunted by im-
I would say, rather, (hat we should try to think about the
relati onship-dear in both French and English through Lati n-
berween image and imitation. And especially that we should un-
derstand what HoIderlin envisions when he thinks of man as "an
image of Cod ." The lines Heideggcr extracts immediatel y follow
this passage:
Reinheit aber ist auch 5chonheil. Innen aus Verschi edenem entsleht
ein ernster Geist. 50 sehr einfaltig die Bilder, so schr.
Heilig si nd die, dass man wirklich oft fiirchtel, die IU beschreiben.
Di e Himmlischen aber, die immer gUl sind, all es 'mmal, wie Reiche.
haben diese Tugend lind Freude. Ocr Mensch darf das nachahmen.
Darf. wenll !auler Muhe das Leben. ei n Mensch ...
Pureness is also beauty.
Within. divergence creates a serious spirit.
But pictures are so simple. so holy
Arc these that really one is
Often afraid to describe them. But the heavenly,
Who arc always good, all at once. like the rich.
Have Ihis virtue and pleasure. Man
May imitate that.
May, when life is all trouble. maya man. 17
This is also the measure for Holderlin: kindness, Fretmdlichkeit, as
the imitati on of divi ne goodness-virtue and pleasure; it shows it-
self as [he sky, that is, as light 's modesty-in its very nudity-and
as th e jubi lat ion of reserving the visible in the self. What is lacking
is the "source": grace-as kindness is reserved. God is not (absent).
He goes away. He lets man die, lets hi m be human, leaves hi m
kindness in the capacity 10 die. Something li ke love, then; what
God gives in withdrawing from mortals' desire (will) , which is al-
ways to be immortal (but this should agai n be understood in the
context of Holderli n's "atheism," and in any case wi thout reference
to who knows what kind of "Swab ian piety").
Imitati ng [he divine means rwo things: wanting to be God (the
Greek n agic experi ence), and "humbly" keeping God's retreat as a
model (the "Western" experience-just as tragic, but in another
The distance berween them is measured here. A poem in
Spmcbgittersays this (changing the direction of prayer in rhe name
of a carnal proximity between the God and man, in order to sig-
nify that God's image is man's blood shed: God present, which is
10 say withdrawn, nor in "the figure of death," but in the face of
the dead-the exterminated):
Nah sind wir, Herr,
nahe und greifbar.
r m ~ m b m l l g Daln
Gegriffen schon, Herr,
inein:mder verkralh, als war
deT Lcib dnes jeden von \Ins
dein Leib, Herr.
Belt, Herr,
belt 1;U uns,
wir sind nah.
Windschcif gingen wir hin,
gingen Wi T hin, uns zu bilckcn
nach Mulde und Mur.
Zur T rankc gingen wir, Herr.
Es Won Blut, es war,
was du vergossen, Herr.
Es gl:inzte.
Es warf uns dei n Bild in die Augen, Herr.
Augen und Mund nthn so offen und leer, Herr.
WiT halxn geuunken, Herr.
Das Blm und das Bild, <las im Blut war, Herr.
Bele, Herr.
Wir sind nah.
We art ncar, Lord.
ncar and at hand.
Handled already. Lord,
clawed and clawing as though
the body of each of us were
your body. Lord.
Pray. Lord,
pray to us.
we are near.
Wi nd-2wry we went there,
went there to bend
over hollow and ditch.
To be watered we went there. Lord.
It was blood, il was
what you shed, Lord.
I! gleamed.
It cast your image into our eyes, Lord.
Our eyes and our mouths arc so open and empty, Lord.
We have drunk. Lord.
The blood and the image that was in the blood, Lord.
Pray, Lord.
We are n('2t,l '
12 The Unforgivable
c. F. says he was lold- by a French intell ectual. I think- that
French intell ectuals harp roo much on the pathos of Auschwin
(Auschwitz as understood by Adorno. George Stei ner, and several
others who can hardly be classifi ed as French intellectuals), If we
start to forget this, the umhi nkablc-rhar it happened here, rhat
our brorhers (our fellow men) let it happen, thai they said not h
ing. were afra id, felt some degree of enjoyment, and that it was
pure monntosil)'- if we stan no longer to understand in what
ways it was pure monstrosity, then I hold Out little hope for the fU-
lUre of thought, or, in any case, for those who imagine themselves
"inlcll igclIl" in saying such things. The most one can wish them is
to avoid "pal hos" on lesser "subjecu, "
Herein li es Heidcggcr's irreparable offense: not in his dedar:a-
lions of 1933-}4, which we can understand without approving, but
in his silence on the cxtermination. He should have been thc first
10 say somcthing. And I was wrong to thi nk initially Ihat il was
enough to ask forgiveness. It is absolutely That is what
he should have said. In any case, there is a risk that thought will
never recover from such sil ence:
Too lIa6t
To learn fO know through pain.
(ANrhylll" Ago.mcmnon)
No, it is nOi I, it is someone dK who suffers.
I, I could not h:lve suffered thus.
(An"" AM ..... ,." ... Rcquitm)
Reference Matter
Part I
I. is in vol ume J oreclan's five-volume GrsammrJu
\\'ll"rkr, cd. Beda All emann and Stefan Rei chert, in collaboration with
Rolf BUcher (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. 1983). This passage. p. 200. Unless
ot huwisc noted, all English 1r.l.llshuions from Meridi:an" art from
Jerry Glenn's "The Meridian." in OJimgo 29. no. } (1978): 19-40.
This passage. p. }8.-Trans.)
1. . IGWI: 2.26. English translat ions of Cd an's poems will be Michael
Hamburger's unl ess otherwise noted. Janner" is in Paul
Crkm: Porms (New York: Pcrsca, [988), In-Trans.]
}. IGW2: 2S; Hamburger. Ctlllfl,293-Trans.]
4. [Apart from Michael Hamburger's lTanslations of both poems,
there is an Engli sh version of TUbing"', jiinn" in Joachim Ncugroschel,
I'aul Crum, SpucJ,-Grilk York: E. P. Dunon, 1971), 18s- Tr:ms.1
5, [Lacoue-Labart he's phrase is "c'est avec 1'A1lemagne qu' jI faut ...
s'expliquer. S'txpliqurr in this context means primaril y "to discuss, "to
cb. rify maners," even "to ha\'1:' il OUt with Yel the \'I:' rb could
also funaion as a si mple reflcxive; this would render the sense, "WI:' must
explain ourult-t1 with Germany." The import of such ambi gui ty for re-
flections on the Holocaust is self-cvident.- Trans.J
6. [ From "der l od ist ein Mei ster aus Deut schl and."
GWt: 42; "Death Fugue," Hamburger, C,InIl,6J,-Trans,1
7, Henri Mesehonnic, "On appdl e cela traduirc Celan," in POllr III
pohiqu, // (Paris: G:llli n13fd, 1980) .
8. GWz: }J4. Peler Swndi, "Eden," in poltiqut'S tU kz modn-
nirl{Lillc: Presses univcrsitaires de Lille, 1981).
9. Issu<.'S 2 and j, 1972. Blanchot , U ii was reissued by
fiua mOTg.lna in Paris in 1984.
10. Thcodor Adorno, "Parataxe," in NOll'S to LiumNlrr, vol. 2, trans.
Shicrry Weber Nicholson (New York: Columbia Univcrsiry Press, 1991),
II. Along with. in an entirely diffcrcm vein, Werner Hamacher, "The
Second of Inversion: Movements of a Fi gure Through Celan's Poetry,"
lrans. Peler Fenvcs, in Word TractS: &.ulingf o/Paul Olan, ed. Aris Fiorc-
(Os (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 219-63.
12 [The French "tour I norm" plays on a double meaning: the verb
tOllnlOJ" can be translalcd as "10 wheel around, whirl, swirl," while di-
vidi ng the pasl parliciplc of the verb into two pans evokes "tower I
- Trans.}
13 [h is worth stressing that this English version translates Lacoue-
Labarthe's French nanslation, rather than Celan's German.-Trans.}
14. Friedrich Holderi in, Siimrficlu Wrrkr, vol. 2.1 (Stuttgart: Kohlham-
mer, 1951), 195
15 I refer the reader to Roger Munier (responding to an inquiry on
experience in MiS( (f/ pagr I [May 1972]): "First there is etymology. Ex-
prrimer comes from the Latin rxprriri, to test, try, prove. T he radical is
fUriri, which one also finds in pl!riculum, peril, danger. The Indo-Euro-
pean root is pa, to which arc attached the ideas of cTOssingand, secon-
darily, of trial., USt. In Greek, numerous derivat ions evoke a crossi ng or
passage: pt ira, to cross; prm, beyond; ptmo, to pass through; prraino, to
go to the end; prras, end, limit. For Germanic languages, Old High Ger-
man fomn has given us fohrrn, to transport, and fohrrn, to drive. Should
we attribme Erfohrung to this origin as well, or should it be linked to
the second mean ing of prr, trial , in Old High German fora, danger,
which became Grfohr, danger, and grfiihrdm, to endanger? The bound-
aries between one meaning and the other are imprecise. The same is true
for the Latin ptriri, to try, and pairoium, which originally means trial ,
test, then risk, danger. The idea of experience as a crossing is etymolog-
ically and semantically difficult to separate from thai of risk. From the
beginning and no doubt in a fundamental sense, txptrimer means to
16. The French translation I will refer to is not Andre du Bouchct's in
Strtttt (Paris: Mercure de I:rance, 1971), but Jean Launay's (Poenir 9
[1 979]). I make slight modificadons when Ihe argument warrallts.[For
this passage, see Glenn, }7: "The poem is ... underway." - Trans.}
17. [In the original, this line ream "Ein Rathscl ist Reinentsprunge-
In Engl ish, Michael Hamburger renders it enigma are things
of pure source
; see Ho!dt rlin: Hil Porms (New York: Pantheon, 1952),
199. I have modifit'<i the English translation because ofLacoue-Labarthe's
repeated use of jailli and jlliliissrmrnt.-Trans.]
18. [I n English, agitation or excitement.-Trans.]
19. Waher Benjamin, Charfrs Baudtwirr, Ein LJrilttr im hila"a drs
Hochltapilalismus, in Grsammriu Scbriftrn, vol. 1. 2, cd. Rolflledemann
and Hermann Schweppenhauscr (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974)
English references: ClJllrits Baudrwirr: A LJric Poct in the Era of High
C4pild/ilm, trans. Harry Zohn (London: NLB, 1973).
20. [GW2: 36.-Trans.]
21. Benjamin, "Uber einige Motive bei Baudelaire," Schriftrn, 1.2:
KSome Motifs in Baudel aire, " Charlrs Bautkwirr, 107-54
22. [Ce!an's Bremen address is published in the GW3: 186. The En-
glish translation dted here is by Rosmarie Waldrop, in PaulOwll: Col-
itcud Prose (Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1986), 33.-Trans.]
2}. The lectures on Hotderlin, now published by Klostermann in Hei-
degger's Gtsamtausgabe. The bener pan of Heidegger's essays or papers
on Holderlin presuppose knowledge of these lectures.
2.4. Sec Bcda Allemann's commentary in Ho!derlill it Hridcgga (Paris:
PU. E,1959)
25. [Holderiin, SW2.I: 190-92. Trans. Michael Hamburger, Frirdrich
Ho!drrfin: POtms and Fragmrnu (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1980), 495.- Trans.]
26. "Anmerkungen zum 'Odi pus'H in SWS; 196: "Remarks on 'Oedi-
pUS,'H in fnedrich Ho!drrlin: Essays lind Lctun on Throry, trans. Thomas
PfJu (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988), 107
27. I have attempted this analysis in " La c6ure du (in
Holderiin, L'Antigonr tb Sophoclc [Paris: Bourgois, 1978]) and in "Holder-
lin ct les Greet (Po/tiqllr 4o [1979])
28. Jean Bcaufrct, "Holderlin et Sophocle,H in Holderiin, Rrmarqurs
mr Oedipe-Rrmarqllrs sur Antigollr (Paris: U.G.E., 1965).
29. [Hamburger, Hii!dtrlin, 601.-Trans.]
30. [Hamburger, Crwll. 175-Trans.]
31. [Holderlin, SW2.t: 146; Hamburger, Hii!daiin. 417-Trans. ]
32. [Holderiin, SW2.1: 13: Hamburger, Ho!derfifl, I}L- Trans.}
33- [Glenn,
34. [Art hur Rimbaud, Of /(/I"S 11: Vnr lIliSOIl til tIIfa
(Paris: Garnier- Fl ammarion, 1989), 57; Rimbaud: Complftt Works, 5f-
Lfllm, Hans. Wallace Fowlie (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1966), 125.- Trans. !
35 [Glenn. 35-37.-Trans.]
36. [Ibid .. 36.-Trans.]
37. [Ibid . 32.; GW3: 192.-TranS.]
38. "Die Ros' ist ohne wamm; sic blUhet, wei l sic bllihet; I Sic acht'
nicht ihrer sdbst, (ragt nichl, ob man sie rose is without a
why, blooms because it blooms; I Has no care for itself. nor desires to be
Sec Heidcgger, 511fz vom Grund(Pfull ingen: Neske. 1957), and Thf
trans. Reginald Lilly (Bloomi ngton: Indiana Univer-
sity Press, 1991).
39 ]Glenn, 34; GWj: 195- Trans.]
40. [Glenn, 35: GW3: 195.-Trans.]
41. 5W 4. 1: 233.
42. [ Paul vla1l, trans. Waldrop, 18-19.-Trans.]
43 Blanchot, u Danian parla, 45.
44 GW 3: 185-6; Paul Vla,t, Waldrop, 34.
1. ["Stammcring
translates the French which corresponds
to Celan's lallm in "Tlibingen, (GWI: 2.26) . Michael Hamburger
translales lallm as "babble" (etlall, 177).-Trans.]
2 . [GW3: 202; Glenn, 40. In this section, page references to "The
Meridian will be given in the main body of Ihe text: first to the Ger-
man, then to Glenn's English translalion, and lasl to the French rransla-
lion by Jean Launay used by Lacoue-Labarthe ('''Lc Meridien.' Discours
prononce l'occasion de la remi se du prix Georg BUchner, " POCnif 9
(t979): 68-82. Al l imes, the English translalion has been modified, in
particular to coincide with Lacoue-Labanhe's use of Launay's French ver-
sion of Cd an's lext, - Trans.]
3 The acceptance spt.'t.'Ch for the Georg BUchner Prize customarily ad-
dresses BUchner's work.
4, "Une lecture de Paul Celan," Poenif9 (1979): 7.
5. In the urne issue of PoCnit, Launay includes, along with his l rans-
lations and Ihe scenes from DIl1/t01lS 70dit refers to.
lranslations of Kafka's "Ein Beri cht fUr cine Gnammrlu
Biil/dm (Frankfurt: Hanser, 1983). and Egon Friedell's
Tn/nIlS zur Wtlhrhdt (1910), in order to clarify the tone proper 10
Meridian. "
6. [Glenn's translation of "The Meridian" gives thn:e different versions
of AU11lwmtb: "reversal of brealh," Kturn of hrealh, " and turn-
7. "Pas (pr61mbule)." in Grammn 3- 4 {t976).[This text is reprinted in
Jacques Derrida, Paragn (Paris: Galilee, 1986), 19-116. Pas in French
means both "step" and "not. " - Trans. !
8. [This is Lacoue-Labarthe's first mention of proP", a word to which
he will frequemly return. I have given it in English as Kown," or, when
possible, as
9. [Dmllons Tod, in Georg BUchner's W"k<" ulld Bri'.fi. cd. Fri"L Berge-
mann (Wiesbaden: Inse!, (949), 41; TlJ<" D<"ath ofDnllloll, trans. Howard
Brenton and Jane Fry, in Georg BUchner, Th<" Compln<" Plays, ed.
Michael Patterson (London: Methuen, 1987), 4o.-Trans,]
10. Connections should be made here between the commentary on
Sophocles in Martin Heidegger, infohrtmg in dif Mnaphysik (TUbin-
gen: Niemeyer, 1953), and the 1942. lectures on "Ocr !ster," in Mart in
Heidegger, Ho/dvlim Hym1lf "Dn lsur(Frankfun: Klostermann, 1984);
Ursprung des Kunstwerkes," in Marrin Heid(:gger, HO/zWtgf (Frank-
furt: Klostermann, 1950), 7-68; and the "Brief uber den Humanismus,"
in Martin Heidcgger, W<"gmarkm (Frankfurt: Klostermann, (967), 145-94
(the passage on the translation of Heraclitus's maxim, nhor anthropt dai-
111011 [185-94]),
II. Or when, on t he comrary-but it amounts 10 exactly the same
thing- he seems to appropriate the UIlJuimiiduas the "realm in which
the monkey, the robots, and accordingly . . . alas, art, tOO, seem 10 be al
home" (192; 32.; 72).
12. [Lacoue-Labanhe's words are "quelque chose ... se renverse, with
"1IlJ<"rsnas the echo (from the Greek knrast"phtill, "to
turn "overt urn"). Altbough I have uS(..J "overturn" here, the lhn:e
other instances in which a form of "nlJ<"rUroccurs seem 10 require "up-
sel, "-Trans.]
13. Once again we are very close 10 Holderlin-"language, that mOSI
dangcrous of possessions," and even 10 the Heidcggerian imerprctation
of thi s phrase. S(''C "Holderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung, " in Martin
Heidegger, ErliillUrtmgtl1 zu Ho/dalim DiclJIIlllg (Frankfurt: Klostcr-
mann, 19111). }3-45. Hcidegger thinks of danger as that which threatens
Being rather {han the human. But Holderlin's phrase derives from a
fragmen! {hat seeks 10 respond to the question: is AI; for
Cclan's determination of the human, what would it be without relation
10 Being. that is-I will come to this-to time? Even Meridian"
is, as we may plausibly allow, part iall y addressed to Hcideggcr. thai is
not sufficiem reason to hastily read into it an response to "on-
tology." The human is in no wayan "et hical" category. and moreover,
no category of this kind can resist the quest ion of Being. ( Lacouc-
Labarthe qUotes Holdcrlin from the fragment "1m Walde," in SW 2.1 :
325- Cf. "In the Forest, " in Friedrich Holdcrlin, Hymns and Fragmmts,
nans. Richard Sicburth (PrincelOn, N.J.: PrincelOn University Press,
1984), S7.-Trans.]
[4. zum 'Odipus,'" in SWS: 196; on 'Oedi-
in Thomas Pfau, trans" Essnys lind utun on Throry, 102.
[5. Jean-Luc Nancy's term. See u discoun tk Ia syncopr (Paris: Aubier-
Flammari on, 1976).
16. [Holderiin, 2um 196; Pf.m,
on 'Oedipus,'" !02.- Trans.]
17. [MAnmerkungen Iur 'Amigona,'" in SWS: 269; on 'An-
tigone.'" in Pfau. Essays and Lmrrs on Throry. II J.- Trans.]
[8. BUchner, Dantons Tod, 86; Bremon and Fry. Tht Drath of Dan-
ton, 80.
[9. This is the case in [he quatrain Celan quOies at the end of "The
Voices from [he p:uh of Ihl' nl'lill'S
Com' on your hands 10 us.
WhOl'Ver is alone wilh Ihe lamp
has only his palm 10 read from.
{GW1: >0' )
20. Celan's words are: " . .. when I anemplcd to make for that distant
but occupiable realm which became visible only in the form of Lucile"
(200; 38; 80).
2[. [In French, poisit d, circonstanct. There is further reference to ci r-
cumstance later on.- Trans.]
22. [The translation is taken from Brian Lynch and Peter Jankowsky,
Paul Ctum: 65 Poems. (Dublin: Raven ArtS, 1985). 41.- Trans.]
23. [The phrase is Jun diapJJfron tallto. Sec Hyptrioll, pt. I, bk. 2, in
SW3: 81. C( Heraclitus. fragmen! 51, in Dit Fragm(1lud,r Vonokratikff,
trans. Hermann Dicls. cd. Walther Kranz. 5th cd. (Berlin: Weidmann,
1934),1: 162.-Trans.]
24. leWI: 218; Hamburger. Ctlan, 161.-Trans. ]
25. [ewl: 219; Hamburger, etlan, [63.-Trans.]
26. These arc the last words of "Die Frage der in Vortrag,
und Aufiiiru (Pfullingen: Neske, 1954), }6. Heidcgger defines this piety
as "Weise, in der das Denken dem Zu- Denkenden In Ihi s
way. it is itself a product of dialogue (Gaprach) as the essence of language
(of thought) . See "Holderlin und das Weren der Dichtung," J8- 40.
Cclan himself t hinks of perception and questioning as dialogue.
27. [GWt: 217; Hamburger. Ctlan, 159-Trans.]
28. [A play on the dde of Emmanuel LCvinas's Alltrrmrnt qUttrt 014
Illl-dtiit tk l'turner (Haag: Nijhoff. 1974) .- Trans.]
29. Still und u ir, mh ed. (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1967), 38.
30. The denunciation concl udes "Was ist Meraphysik?," in W'g-
markrn, 19. The problematiution is in zu einem Seminar Uber
den Vomag 'Zeit und Sein,'" in Marlin Hcidcgger. Zur Sacht drs
Drnkrns (TUbingen: Niemeyer, 1969), 54
}1. Cf. Sprache uberhaupt und uber die Sprache des Men-
sehen," in Gtsammtltt Schriftm (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. 1977), 2.1: 140-
57; "On Language as Such and on me Language of Man. in Walter Ben-
jamin, &jkctions, ed. Peter Demett. trans. Edmund Jcphcotl (New York:
Schocken. 1986), }14-32.
}2. Walter Benjamin, "Ober einige Motive bei Baudelaire,ft Gtsam-
mtltt Schriftrn, 1.2: 639; "On Some Moti fs in Baudelaire, ft in Walter Ben-
jamin, Illuminations, cd. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York:
Schocken, 1969). 199. The quotat ion from Valc!ry is from Autrts Rhumbs.
}3. IHolderlin. SW 2.1: 126- 29; Holderlin, "AI the Source of lhe
Danube,ft in Sieburth. Hymns and Fragmmts, 57.- Trans.]
14. GWI: 213; Hamburger. Ctlan, 155
I. [eW" 225; Hamburger. Ct lan, In- Trans.]
2. [Lacoue-Labart he's phrase is "cn n' invoquam he thus
stresses thai ptnonn, in French means both "no one
and Mln_
voquer would mean 10 invoke no one, with "no func-
' 34
rioning as if it were a name; means nOI 10 invoke.-
J. IL. L. writes: MDieu S'CSt fevcle (n')euc personne. M See note above
on possible meanings for kpcrsonne."_Trans.]
4. (The Latin connectS 10 the French word nlam. or -not hingness."-
s f L.L's to:t ftaW ":lUcun hrrcn tOUl cas qui f ...u sllr Ie mode d'un
Iram" (emphasis addcd).-Tr.ms.]
6. GWI: 211; Hamburger, Glall,I5).
7. "Typogrophi e" in Mim6is dlsn,.,jcuMrio1lS (Paris: Aubicr-Flammar-
iOIl, 1975). English references: "Typography, " in 1jpography: Mimnil.
Philolop"y_ Politics. cd. ChrislOphcr Fynsk (Cambridge: Harvard Univer-
sity Press. 1989).
8. Fmgmt!1lts Pi"dnrr, "Das HOchstc. " SW s: 285.
9 ( In English. the pl ay ends thus: ..... we'll ... ask God for maca-
roni, melons. and figs. for musical voices, classical bodies. and a con1 -
fonable Georg BUchner, and una, in Compllff Works
and Lmm, lrans. Henry J. Schmidt (New York: Continuum, 1986),
10. ICclan's texi reads M ich muss mi ch hUten, wie mtin hirr
witdngrfimdmrr LnntiJtrlitnll KArl Emil Frallzol, das 'Commode', das nun
gebraucht wird, als ein 'Kommend($' 1:U lesen!" (GW}: 202). Glenn
rranslaI($ "Commode" as "accommodating" (Glenn, }9), but I have
modified this to "comfort<Ible," in deference 10 the English translation
of Bilchner (sec note 9).-Tr:ms.1
II . IBri an Lynch and Peter Jankowsky translate the poem thus:
lWO-HOUSEO, ETERNAL ONE,)"ou are, un-
inhabir:.lbk. Therefore
we build and we: build. Therefore
il staods, Ihis
pitiful the rain,
there it S[;lnds.
Come, lovn.
That we lie here, Ihat
is the partition-: He
then is 5ufficielll UIIIO Himsdf. twice.
Lei Him, He
may have HimMClf wholly, as the half
anll once again the half. We,
we: are the rai n-hcd, may
He: come: and rendc:r us dry.
He: comes nO!, He docs nOI rende:r U$ dry.
Paul Olan: 65 Pomu (Dublin: R.:aven Arts, 1985), )6.-T r:ms.]
12. Glenn, 3S-}6.
I }. AI leasl, if the "place" ofbcing and the On of Das,ill arc substan-
lia(i"ot:oo, or sacraiizcd, as has indeed been the cast". In 771t Exprrimu of
Thought Hcidcgger writes: "BUI Ihinking poetry is in trulh the topology
of Being. l it says to Being the place where it unfolds." Gnamtdusgdbr,
vol. I}, Dil ErfohruIIg dn Drnlw/S (Fra nkfurl : Klosterman, 198}), 84
Cclan's u-lOpia responds 10 Heidegger's topology, pushing it 10 its limits.
14. IGWt: 217; Hamburger, Cllan, IS9-Trans.]
IS. \GWI: 2}9-40; Hamburger, C,Ia", t87-89-Trans.]
16. [GWI: 214. The English version oflhe poem is Hamburger's, p.
IS7. However, I have had to modify Ihe third verse of Hamburger's trans-
lation in Ihe interest of Lacouc-Labanhe's argument. In the French trans-
lation of Zum Storch en" that L.-L. prints. the Abrr-Du of the
thi rd verse has been rendered as NOIl- To;; Hamburger gives it in Engl ish
as I have replaced " You-Again" with so as 10
keep me filiation from the French clear for L -L's subscquelll remarks.-
17. [GW2: )18: Hamburger, }Is.-Trans.]
18. (GW2: }26.1 have modified the English tran.slalion found .in W:'
forms: Paul Olan, lrans. Katharine Washburn and Margret GUlllemm
(San Francisco: Norlh Point , 1986), 101. Washburn and GUille.m!n gi,:
of death, rid I of God" for Cclan's quitt, Goues I qULn ; their
adjcctive perhaps lends a different tone to Ihe verses from Iha.t of the
French venion Lacoue-Labarthc: uses: de la mort , qUlne I de
Dieu." I have used "clear" 10 remain in line with Lacouc:- Labarthe's read-
19. [Hamburger, }Is.-Tt:l.ns.]
20. Boschenstein, "Destitutions," in Ln mnll til blllt1 Imm 2 (t972),
I. I I have followed de Launay's I;rcnch version as closely as possible
for this English rendering. It is thus a tf'Jnslalioll of a translation, rather
than a translation ofCclan.-Trans.]
I . [Germa n: der Sprache" in Heidcgger, Umnwq,s Ul r
Spmchr. vol. 12 of GnAmrllusgllbr (Frankfun: Kloslermann. 1985), 159.
English transl ation by Peler D. HertZ. in Ihe essay Nature of Lan-
in On UK W1ty to Lmgwzgr(San Francisco: Harper & Row, (971).
66.- Trans.)
2. [ Heidcgger, 149; HertZ. On 1m way 10 ungullgr, 57.-
j. [Hcidcggcr. Um"wtgJ. 222, HertZ, On Iht way to u nguagt, 151.-
4. (" Die Sprachc," in Heidcgger. UnttrWef.So 24, "Language. ft in Hei-
dcgger, Portry. u nguagr, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York:
Harper & Row, 1971), 204.-Trans.}
5 [Heidegger, "Ocr Wcg wr Sprachc. Ummwgs. 244; Hem. "The
Way 10 Language," 0" Ihr way to Lmgwzgr, 134.- Trans.J
6. [Again, I have remained closer to Lefebvre's French than 10 Celan's
7 [ From the poem "Mit allen Gedanken,ft GWI : 221; "Wirh all my
Hamburger, Gum,167.-Trans.]
8. [Celan, "Sprachgi tter," GWI: 167; Hamburger, "Language Mesh:
Crlml, 119-Trans. J
9 [Celan, GWI: ' 95; Hamburger, "The Straitening,"
etllln. 137.-Trans.1
10. lCelan, "Schncebelt," GWI: 168, Hamburger. "Snow-bed, " Crill",
II . Blanchor's French translation is "yew que la
parole submerge jusqu'a la Trans.]
12. (Celan, "Schnccbeu," GWI: 168; Hamburger, "Snow-bed," Crlnn,
n. 1.- Trans.)
13. [ From ibid.:
Augen wd tbli nd,
Augen im Sterixgekl uft,
Augen Augen , ..
From "F..ngf'uhrung" (not e 9, above):
Lies nicht
Schau ni eht mehr-geh!
Lacoue- Labanhe cil es the French tr.l nslat ion by Maurice Blanehot, "Le
demier a parler." 15.-Trans. )
w t"'Y
I. lJe;m-Jacques RouSSt'Ol u, Orulfft1comp/}rtl, vol. 1 (Pa.ris: Galli mard,
Bibliothlue de la Pl6ade, 1959), 1005; Rrwrit1 oft"r Solilary walkt'r,
t rans. Peter France (Harmondsworth, England: 1979), }9.-
I. Pari s: Hachcue/ POL, 1979,
2. (GW}: :wo.-Trans.]
3. [Du Bouchet, Strrttt.- Trans.]
4. [Jean Launay," Le POc7Jir9 (1979): 80.-Trans.]
I. IGWI: 274: Hamburger, Ctlnn, 2.II.-Trans.J
Ut d
I. (This passage can be found in the afterword to the essay "Das
Ding," Vormtgr und Aufiiitzt. 183; trans. Hofstadt er, Pon?> unguagr,
Thought, 164-Trans.]
L. (Celan, "Zurich, Zum SlOrchen," GWI: 114: Hamburger, "ZUrich,
Inn," CrIll", 157.-Trans.]
}. The manuscript is daled April 17. t977.
4, Hei dcgger's response to Celan on receipt of "Todtnauberg. " Ah-
mann mentions at the beginning of his article that this letler. along wit h
the poem itsclf, had been exhibi ted in 1970 at Radu2 in the exh ibi t ion
on Celan.
5, The French lranslation of thi s text is in large part due to Jean-Luc
Na ncy, the intermediary between \'Q.H. and me. [The Engli sh version
has been Ir.lI1slat ed from the French,- Tr:UlS.]
I. IGW}: 108; Washburn and Guillcmin. lAst forms. 189.-Trans.]
I. I HiildcrJin, SWs: I8S.-Trans.]
}. [SIVI. I: 118; Hamburger. Fridrich Hiildnlifl, Pomua'ld Fragmt'flts.
}7}- Trans.]
4 Martin Hcidcgger. Wenn am Feienagc .... " in ErliiUlt'I'Ungm
zu Hiildmins Diduuflg, 61.
5. Hcidcgger. Gedicht ," Erliiutt'I'Uflgm, 187.
6. I Heidegget, \.11rtragt und Aufiiitu, 187-204; Hofmdter, Pott",
umgllligt. Thought.21}-z9.- Trans.]
7. translatcs Frrufldlirhktit, which Heidegger interprets as
the Greek xapu;: grace.
8. [This line in German is Verdienst," whi ch Michael Ham-
burger translat cs as of profit. " The French version L. -L. di scusses
uSC$ de mcritcs"; I have modified Ihe English to enhance the sense
of L. -L. 's subsequent remuks. - Trans.]
9 [SI\72.1: 372; Hamburger, Hiildtrlifl, 261- 6s.-Trans.]
10. [HofStadter translatcs: MIs he manifcstlike the sky?" Hiilderii n an-
swers: sooner bel ic\'e the latter. " The translation here has been mod-
ified in accordance with Hofstadter's.-Trans.]
It. [Hc:ideggcr, ... dichterisch wohnet der Mensch ... ," Vormigt
und Aufiilru, 197; Hofsradter, .. . .. Poetically Man Dwells ... ," Pot""
IAngungt'. Thought. In-lJ.- Trans.]
12. In "In Lovely Blueness," these .'Ire the night stars. About
shade of the night ," Hcide:gger says: .. ... the night itself is the
shade. th2t darkness which can never become a mere blackness bec.ause as
shade it is wedded to tight and remains casl by it (Heidegger, " ... dich-
terisch wohnel der Mensch .... " 201; Hofstadlcr, " , .. Poetically Man
Dwells .... " 216.)
I}. Hii lderlin's poem says:
W:.I.S ist GOII? unbcbnlll, dennoch
Voll Eigtnschancn ist du AngC$icht
Dcs Himmds von ihm. Dic Bl im namlieh
Der Zorn si nd ci nes GOICCS. Jcmehr ist eins
Umiehtbar, schickct es sich in Frcmdcs.
What is Unknown, YCt
I:ull of hili qualities is thc
(SW ... :
nce: of the sky. For the lightnings
Are the wr.nh of a god. The more somcthing
Is invisiblc, the more it yields 10 what's ali('n.
(I101".t.d.n. nil
Heidegger's commentary: "The sight of Ihe skY-lhis is what is fami liar
10 man. And whal is that ? Everything that shimmers and blooms in Ihe
sky 2nd thus under the sky 2nd thus on c;,mh. everylhing that sounds
and is fragrant. rises and comcs-bUI also ('\erything thaI goes and Slum-
bles, moans and falls si lenl , pales and darkens. Into Ihis, which is inl i-
matc to man but alicn 10 the god. the unknown impuu himself, in order
[0 remain guarded within it as the unknown" wohnel der
Mensch ... ," 200; Hofstadte r, .. ... Poeli cally Man Dwells ... ," 2.2.S).
'4. (Heidcgger, ... di chrerisch wohnei der Mensch .... " 200; Hof-
stadler, ..... Poelically Man Dwells .... " 22s.-Trans.1
15. Heidegger. " ... dichtcrisch wohnel der Mensch .... ZOO- WI;
Hofsladrer, ..... Poet ically Man Dwells ... ," 225- 26.
16. See Jean-Luc Marion's reading of the poem in L'i,wu t't la distnnct
(Paris: Grassel , 1978).
17. [SW; 2.1: 372; Hamburger, Hiifdtrlin, 261.- Trans.1
18. IGW,: 16J; Hamburger, Olan, It J.-Trans.]
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