Celan, Paul

Celan, Paul

(pôl sālŏn), pseud. of

Paul Antschel

(änt`shschwa;l), 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 HolocaustHolocaust
, name given to the period of persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Romani (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, and others were also victims of the Holocaust.
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 and the destruction of the world as he knew it, as in his most famous poem, "Deathfugue." Celan was strongly influenced by Friedrich HölderlinHölderlin, Friedrich
, 1770–1843, German lyric poet. Befriended and influenced by Schiller, Hölderlin produced, before the onset of insanity at 36, lofty yet subjective poetry, modeled on classic Greek verse.
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, Rainer Maria RilkeRilke, Rainer Maria
, 1875–1926, German poet, b. Prague, the greatest lyric poet of modern Germany. Life

Rilke's youth at military and business school was not happy. His relations with his father were difficult, and he was able to attend the Univ.
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, Georg TraklTrakl, Georg
, 1887–1914, Austrian expressionist poet. Trakl's work, influenced by French impressionist poetry, reveals his disgust with imperialistic society. An absorption with sorrow and decay permeates his Gedichte
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, and Osip MandelstamMandelstam, Osip Emilyevich
, 1892–1938, Russian poet. Mandelstam was a leader of the Acmeist school. He wrote impersonal, fatalistic, meticulously constructed poems, the best of which are collected in Kamen [stone] (1913) and Tristia (1922).
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. 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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Celan, Paul. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan.