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Paul Celan

Paul Celan

Paul Celan was famous for being both a poet and translator, born in Romania, on November 23, 1920. He was born “Paul Antschel” into a Jewish family; however he eventually changed his name to “Paul Celan”, one of his pseudo names.  His father, Leo Antschel, was a Zionist and his mother, Fritzi, was a keen reader of German literature.

Celan was fluent in numerous languages, such as; Romanian and French and Russian. He went to Paris to study medicine, however; went back to Romania prior to the commencement of World War II. Celan was held captive for eighteen months but managed to break out. Unfortunately, his parents were also exiled and ultimately met with their demise in concentration camps.

He transferred to Bucharest in 1945 and was employed in a publishing house where his duties included reading as well as a translating. He developed many friendships with several notable Romanian writers during this time.  He began writing poetry and translating random pieces, circulating them under a number of pseudonyms. Ultimately, he decided to stick to the pseudonym Celan in 194 which was an anagram of Ancel. That is, the version of his name in Romanian.  He resided in Vienna for a short time period before ultimately moving in 1948 to Paris. In Paris, Celan studied both German literature and German philology. Celan married Gisele de Lestrange – a graphic artist, in 1952.  The pair had a son three years later, named Eric.

It was Celan’s second book; “Mohn und Gedechtnis”,  which acquired remarkable praise and enabled him to establish a reputation for himself, contrary to his first book which did not fare as well as the latter. Moreover, “Fugue of Death” Is amongst his most popular poems, which depicts life in the Nazi Extermination camps.

In 1959, Celan secured a post at L’École Normal Superieure of the University of Paris, requiring him to read German Language and Literature – a job he maintained until his demise in 1970. There was a visible difference in the poems he wrote from this time era. They appear to be concise, disjointed and broken in their grammar and perceptions. He received a Georg Buchner Prize In 1960. Throughout the 1960s, Celan published more than five additional books of poetry and achieved global recognition. Additionally, he continued translating works from reputable writers, the likes of; Fernando Pessoa, Henri Michaux, Paul Valéry, Rene Char and Osip Mandelstam.

In 1970, Celan took his life by drowning in the Seine River, reportedly on April 20, 1970. The late Paul Celan deservedly considered amongst the most eminent European poets to surface from after the Second World War.

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