Poetry in Translation (CCXI): Paul ANCEL, aka Paul CELAN, (b. 1920, Bucovina, Romania – d. 1970, Paris), ROMANIA, “Whichever stone you lift”, “Orice lespede de-ai ridica”Whichever Stone You Lift
Whichever stone you lift –
you lay bare
those who need the protection of stones:
now they renew their entwinement.
Whichever tree you fell –
the bedstead where
souls are stayed once again,
as if this aeon too
Whichever word you speak –
you owe to
Translated by John Felstiner
From: “Prose and Poems of Paul Celan”, Norton Publishers, 2007,
Orice lespede ai ridica
Orice lespede ai ridica
vei desveli doar
pe cei ce au nevoie de adăpostul lespezilor:
ei se strâng iarăşi împreună.
Orice arbore de-ai tăia
vei ridica, doar,
din nou, patul
ca şi cum veşnicia
n-ar mai zvâcni.
Orice cuvânt ai rosti
Versiune în limba Română
Constantin ROMAN, Londra,
© 2013, Copyright Constantin ROMAN
Born in Bucovina (Northern Romania), where he spent his formative years between 1920 and 1948. With the advent of Communist dictatorship Celan lived as an uprooted, in Paris. Here another exile and fellow countryman, Emil Cioran, found him in 1959, a job as a reader in German Language and Literature at the prestigious École Normale Superieure of the University of Paris, a position the poet would hold until his death in 1970. From this last period of his exile, his poems grew shorter, more fragmented and broken in their syntax and perception. In 1960 he received the Georg Buchner Prize. During the 1960s he published more than six books of poetry and gained international fame. In addition to his own poems, he remained an active translator of works by Henri Michaux, Osip Mandelstam, Rene Char, Paul Valéry, and Fernando Pessoa. It may be isignal to say that Celan’s earliest work was written and published in Romanian, in Bucharest and only subsequently to this period he composed his poetry in German. The poet chose his nom de plume, Celan, when he published in Bucharest: this is an anagram of his real name of Ancel.
After the communist takeover in his native Romania where Celan held only briefly a position as an editor, we find him in Vienna and finally in Paris, where he settled in 1948.
All along his twenty two years of exile Celan never accepted his uprooting, which eventually led to his suicide, by drowning in the river Seine.
Paul CELAN is considered one of the greats of post-WWII European poets of German expression. Perhaps one of the most defining lines of the poets psyche are encapsulated in his “Fugue of Death” (Todesfuge) a poem which opens with the words:
“Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening /
we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night”