Celan, Paul

Celan, Paul äntˈshschwa;l [key], 1920–70, Romanian-French poet. Although he spent his early years in Romania and his later years in France, Celan wrote in German and is widely considered the greatest postwar poet in Europe. A Jew, who lost both parents in a Nazi camp, he composed works that focus on the moral horror of the Holocaust and the destruction of the world as he knew it, as in his most famous poem, “Deathfugue.” Celan was strongly influenced by Friedrich Hölderlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Georg Trakl, and Osip Mandelstam. Frequently dissonant and freighted with pain, his poems are richly allusive and complicated. Celan was also a masterful translator of such authors as Shakespeare, Valéry, and Dickinson. He lived in Paris from 1948 until his suicide by drowning.

See his collected prose, ed. R. Waldrop (1986), and his critical essays, ed. by A. Fioretos (1993); translations of his work by J. Neugroschel (1971), J. Felstiner (2000), N. Popov and H. McHugh (2000), M. Hamburger (rev. ed. 2001), and P. Joris (2005, 2015, 2020); biography by I. Chalfen (1979; tr. 1991); J. Feltsiner, Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew (1995).

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