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Paul Celan (23 November 1920 - 20 April 1970 / (Cernăuţi, Bukovin) Chernivtsi, Ukraine)


No-man kneads us again out of Earth and Loam,
no-man spirits our Dust.

Praise to you, No-man.
For love of you
we will flower.
towards you.

A Nothing
we were, we are, we shall
be still, flowering:
the Nothing-, the

our Pistil soul-bright,
our Stamen heaven-torn,
our Corolla red
with the Violet-Word that we sang
over, O over
the thorn.

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Other poems of CELAN (38)

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Though we are weak These words still are powerful
And here is the 'finale' from Goodrich: '' in order to experience the poetics of Paul Celan as rendered in English, one must understand that no one translation will ever be adequate enough. Though each translator successfully identifies elements of Celan’s discomfort, no single one fully encompasses all three. A reader wishing to fully intake Celan’s words in English must become a comparative reader, a critical reader, and most importantly a reader who understands that perhaps one of Celan’s most discomforting elements is that he didn’t always wish to be understood. '' [Goodrich, J., Rhyme or Reason? : Successfully Translating the Poetry of Paul Celan,2008] I have reported her words because I wish to amend my first [not fair] comment about Hamburger’s translation. Everyone (in primis myself) has to understand how difficult a task translating a poem is. Celan himself claimed that ''only in the mother tongue can one speak his own truth... in a foreign tongue the poet lies'' (Chalfen I., quoted from a conversation with Ruth Lackner,1947) .
Here is the translation by John Felstiner (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,2001) : PSALM No one kneads us again out of earth and clay, no one incants our dust. No one. Blessèd art thou, No One. In thy sight would we bloom. In thy spite. A Nothing we were, are now, and ever shall be, blooming: the Nothing-, the No-One's-Rose. With our pistil soul-bright, our stamen heaven-waste, our corona red from the purpleword we sang over, O over the thorn.
Celan uses a word in his ''Psalm'' that ultimately varies with translations. In ''Niemand knetet uns wieder aus Erde und Lehm'' Felstiner and Hamburger translate the word ''knetet'' differently. Felstiner sticks to the more denotative definition of 'kneten': to knead or to pound. He translates that ''No one kneads us again out of earth and clay'', where 'kneads' suggests that 'no one' shows no sign of concern or affinity for the subject ''us''. Kneading is an act of haphazard physical force, with no careful measures taken to truly appreciate the earth and clay from which the ''us'' takes form. Hamburger, however, translates 'knetet' as 'moulds' and writes 'No one moulds us again out of earth and clay.'. Though 'moulds' and 'kneads' don’t seem to differ greatly in meaning on the surface, Hamburger’s moulds lends familiarity and suggests a personal connection to, paradoxically, ''no one''. Much as a potter would dedicate himself to molding a unique piece of clay, a sense of creation and production is implied with 'moulds', and the care taken in the process of molding undoubtedly inspires pride and ownership. Continuing beyond the first line of the poem, this translation instills a feeling of failed recreation or rebirth from the very beginning. If success comes with discomfort, then the discomfort lies in Hamburger’s ''moulds'' and the contradictory familiarity created in the opening line and the overwhelming apathy created later. It makes too much sense that the ''No One'' would give little concern to kneading a dusty piece of clay in Felstiner’s translation. Hamburger uses the act of molding to connect ''no one'' to ''us'' only to widen a gap of desperate acceptance between them later in the poem. [Goodrich, J., Rhyme or Reason? : Successfully Translating the Poetry of Paul Celan,2008]
'' Rich in historical and religious references, Celan’s Psalm philosophically questions the meaning of human suffering without explicitly mentioning the Holocaust. ''
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