Paul Celan

Paul Celan

About Paul Celan

Paul Celan was a German language poet and translator. He was born as Paul Antschel to a Jewish family in Chernivtsy, Ukraine, and adopted the pseudonym Paul Celan. He became one of the major German-language poets of the post-World War II era. In 1952, Celan's writing began to gain recognition when he read his poetry on his first reading trip to Germany where he was invited to read at the semiannual meetings of Group 47. At their May meeting he read his poem Todesfuge (Death Fugue), a depiction of concentration camp life. When Ingeborg Bachmann, with whom Celan had an affair, won the group's prize for her collection Die gestundete Zeit (The Extended Hours), Celan (whose work had received only six votes) said After the meeting, only six people remembered my name. He did not attend any other meeting of the group. In November 1951, he met the graphic artist Gisèle de Lestrange, in Paris. He sent her many love letters, influenced by Franz Kafka's correspondence with Milena Jesenska and Felice Bauer. They married on December 21, 1952, despite the opposition of her aristocratic family. During the following 18 years they wrote over 700 letters; amongst the active correspondents of Celan were Hermann Lenz and his wife, Hanne. He made his living as a translator and lecturer in German at the École Normale Supérieure. He was a close friend of Nelly Sachs, who later won the Nobel Prize for literature. Celan became a French citizen in 1955 and lived in Paris. Celan's sense of persecution increased after the widow of a friend, the French-German poet Yvan Goll, unjustly accused him of having plagiarised her husband's work. Celan was awarded the Bremen Literature Prize in 1958 and the Georg Büchner Prize in 1960. Celan committed suicide by drowning in the Seine river in Paris, around April 20, 1970.

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