Western Art and Jewish Presence in the Work of Paul Celan: Roots and Ramifications of the “Meridian” Speech addresses a central problem in the work of a poet who holds a unique position in the intellectual history of the twentieth century. On the one hand, he was perhaps the last great figure of the Western poetic tradition, one who took up the dialogue with its classics and who responded to the questions of his day from a “global” concern, if often cryptically. And on the other hand, Paul Celan was a witness to and interim survivor of the Holocaust. These two identities raise questions that were evidently present for Celan in the very act of poetry. This study takes the form of a commentary on Celan’s most important statement of his poetics and beliefs, “The Meridian,” which is an extraordinarily condensed text, packed with allusions and multiple meanings. It reflects his early work and anticipates later developments, so that the discussion of “The Meridian” becomes a consideration of his oeuvre as a whole. The commentary is an act of listening—an attempt to hear what these words meant to the poet, to see the landscapes from which they come and the reality they are trying to project; and in the light of this, to arrive at a clear picture of the relation between Celan’s Jewishness and his vocation as a Western writer.
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About the Author
Esther Cameron is an independent scholar, poet, and translator who has published numerous articles on Paul Celan and on contemporary poetics.