P i e r r e J o r i s

		In Heidegger's Germany, there is no place for Paul
Edmond Jabès

	The volume Lichtzwang, which came out a few month after Paul Celan's 
death in the spring of 1970, contains a poem called "Todtnauberg." It is 
certainly one of the most commented Celan poems in recent times, especially 
in France, though not exclusively there, and the number of translations it has 
given rise to, as well as the very matter of the poem itself make it an ideal 
topos for a few comments concerning poetic thought and translation. Here is 
the poem, in its original German and in my still provisional translation:

TODTNAUBERG                                     TODTNAUBERG

Arnika, Augentrost, der			Arnica, eyebright, the
Trunk aus dem Brunnen mit dem	draft from the well with the
Sternwürfel drauf,			star-die on top,

in der					in the
Hütte,					Hütte,

die in das Buch				written in the book
- wessen Namen nahms auf		- whose name did it record
vor dem meinen? -			before mine - ?
die in dies Buch				in this book
geschriebene Zeile von			the line about
einer Hoffnung, heute,			a hope, today,
auf eines Denkenden			for a thinker's
kommendes				word 
Wort						to come,
im Herzen,					in the heart,

Waldwasen, uneingeebnet,		forest sward, unleveled,
Orchis und Orchis, einzeln,		orchis and orchis, singly,

Krudes, später, im Fahren		crudeness, later, while driving,
deutlich,					clearly,

der uns fährt, der Mensch,		he who drives us, the man,
der's mit anhört,				he who also hears it,

die halb-					the half-
beschrittenen Knüppel-			trod log-
pfade im Hochmoor,			trails on the highmoor,

Feuchtes,					humidity,
viel.						much.

	 Given the scrutiny this specific poem has been subjected to,
and the different - and often contradictory - contexts in which it has
been used, we know much about its origins, or better, the occasion
that gave rise to it, the history of its appearance in print and the
subsequent history of its translations. The best and most compelling
hermeneutical approach to the poem can be be found in the
"Todtnauberg" section of Otto Pöggeler's book Spur des Wortes1
and in the following I will lean heavily on Pöggeler's insights.
Having established the poem's main thrust, I will then turn to an
English translation by Robert R. Sullivan as it appears in the
latter's translation of Hans-Georg Gadamer's book Philosophical
Apprentice-ships,2 in order to show how the context in which the poem
appears there has twisted - détourné, the French would
say - the translator's grasp of the poem itself and forced him to make
choices in his translation that are, to say the least, objectionable.

	 Celan, like many other poets, is concerned with thought, with
philosophy, and in his work we find, as Pöggeler puts it,
Auseinander-setzungen with a variety of philosophers and thinkers:
with Democritus in the poem "Engführung"; with Spinoza in the
poems "Pau, nachts," and "Pau, später" ; or with Adorno in his
single prose work, Gespräch im Gebirg. It is therefore not
surprising to find Celan concerned with the figure of Martin
Heidegger. This concern is ambivalent, to say the least, involving
both attraction and repulsion. Pöggeler reminds us that as far
back as 1957, Celan had wanted to send his poem "Schliere" to
Heidegger, but also, that, when somewhat later Heidegger had his
famous meeting with Martin Buber in Münich, Celan felt very
uneasy and was not ready to give Heidegger a "Persilschein", a
"Persil- passport" i.e. did not want to whitewash the politically
compromised philosopher. Celan, at that time, was reading Heidegger's
Nietzsche as well as Nietzsche himself, and seems to have thought
highly of Heidegger's interpretations. Nietzsche's thought is also,
albeit liminally, present in Celan's poetry, for example in
"Engführung," where the line "Ein Rad, langsam, rollt aus sich
selbst", is a formula used by Nietzsche in the chapter "Von den 3
Verwandlungen" in Zarathustra. Heidegger himself was intermittently
interested in Celan's work and came, whenever possible, to the rare
public readings Celan gave in Germany.

	It seems somehow inevitable - though at the same time
incongruous - that the German philosopher and the Jewish poet should
meet. "Todtnauberg" is the chronicle of that meeting. The title refers
to the place in the Black Mountains of southern Germany where
Heidegger lived. As a toponym it should not - cannot? - be
translated. If the title of this essay puns on the name, it is to draw
our attention to the two major word kernels in the title of the poem
itself - Todt, death and Berg, mountain - which both resonate
throughout Celan's work (remember his famous "Todesfuge, " or the
already mentioned Gespräch im Gebirg ).

	The circumstances of the poem are, briefly, as follows: On
July 24, 1966 Celan gave a reading in Freiburg im Brisgau. The next
day he was driven to a meeting with Heidegger in Todtnauberg. Celan
wrote a line into the guestbook, then the two went for a short walk on
the moor. Celan was driven back and went on to Frankfurt where he
wrote the poem in his hotel on August 1st. The poem was first
published in a small bibliophile edition of fifty copies in 1968, with
the indication of the place and time of its composition, these being
removed - as was Celan's habit - when the poem was republished in the
volume Lichtzwang. A first French translation, by Jean Daive, came out
in 1970. Much later André du Bouchet did another one, which was
first published in 1977 in the magazine Clivages , then in bookform.
Philippe Lacoue- Labarthe uses very much his own version in his
seminal essay "La poésie comme expérience"3. Katherine
Washburn and Magret Guillemin, interestingly enough, decided not to
translate the poem for their selcted late Celan volume4, while Michael
Hamburger does give it in his selection5. All of these translations
could bear close scrutiny and in depth comparatist appraisal.The focus
of this essay will however limit itself to an analysis of the English
translation by Robert R. Sullivan mentioned earlier.

	The poem itself is a single sentence, divided into eight
stanzas, five of which have but two lines, and is essentially composed
of parataxically juxtaposed nouns and noun-clauses commenting on those
nouns, seperated by commas until a single period brings the poem to a
close. One gets the feeling of something cut-up, stretched-out,
retracting, fore-shortening itself: nearly not a poem, the sentence
feels like the remainder, the residue, of an aborted or impossible
narration or relation; gnomic, "quickly scribbled notes, hopes for a
poem, a private aide-mémoire understandable only to the one who
took them."  Lacoue-Labarthe calls it "un poème
exténué, pour tout dire, déçu" - "an
exhausted, even disappointed poem6".

	The poem's opening line, Celan's account of the surrounding
botany he espies upon arriving, is however full of hope and healing:
Arnica is a bright- yellow flower, whose mountain variety, A. montana
, is used to prepare a tincture helpful for healing sprains and
bruises. Eyebright - Augentrost - is a small white and purplish flower
of the old world, whose very name indicates its healing faculties: it
is used to bring succour to failing or ailing eyesight. This is the
only occurence of Arnica in his work, while Eyebright was used once
before, in the only recently published "Gedichte 1938-1944", in a poem
called "Herbst" - the line there reads: "Doch Wimper und Lid vermissen
den Augentrost" ("But lash and lid miss the eyebright"). Notice also
the two bright A's that begin the words: the English translation, as
well as the various French ones, lose the second A, though, by a happy
coincidence, the English plant- name, "Eye-bright", rather accurately
translates the German one.

	The next two lines indicate that the traveler, upon arriving,
takes a draft of water from a well. The hope of the opening flora is
maintained in the sense of quickening one gets from a draft of fresh
well-water. The well itself is described as having a
"Sternwürfel", literally a star-dice, on top. This was indeed the
case: old photos of Heidegger's Hütte show this wooden cube with
a painted or carved star-motto on it, which seems to have been a piece
of local folk-art. The English translation by Sullivan botches this
line giving it as "the well/ with the cube of asters on it" - possibly
an un-called for attempt to get more flora with an initial a-sound
into the poem? And cube forWürfel completely undertranslates the
motherlode of meanings present for Celan. Würfel, though indeed a
cube, is primarily a dice - here the whole complex of Celan's relation
to Mallarmé and his "Coup de dé" comes into play -, and
either the noun or the verb can be found throughout Celan's work. The
topos is of course even more complexified by the star on it: think of
the six sides of the dice, which no matter how often you throw it,
cannot come up with the number seven, Mallarmé's famous
"constella-tion," Celan's "Siebenstern," i.e. the Pleiades (the seven
sisters of Atlas transformed into stars, of which only six are visible
to the nakes eye) and much more. The star on the dice rimes with the
yellow arnica, giving the five-pointed jewish star: the jewish poet at
the door of the politically suspect philosopher, etc. Stern, or star,
is also important to Heidegger who, interestingly, or strangely
enough, had an eight-pointed star engraved on his tombstone.

	Then, the briefest stanza, three words distributed over two
lines: in der/Hütte . "In the cabin, or hut." I have preferred to
retain the German word "Hütte" here, because in a Heideggerian
context - and that is where a poem titled Todtnauberg has to be
located - the word is heavily and symbolically loaded: Heidegger
refers to his 1947 book "Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens" as the
"Hüttenbüchlein" (a book which, as Pöggeler points out,
contains the line "Auf einen Stern zugehen"). The Hütte itself,
which Heidegger had built in 1922, was not only his holiday house in
the mountains, but also his essential work and thinking place and,
maybe more importantly, the refuge he went to in times of trouble. It
was from there that, abandoning his work on the pre- socratics, he
went down to Freiburg to take up the job as rector in 1933 and
militate for what can be at best described as his own idiosyncratic
version of a Hitlerian Germany. It is there that he took refuge during
the denazification years. But, maybe essential in this context, and
Celan almost certainly knew this, either via Schneeberger's book7, or
via friends, it was also there that in 1933 Heidegger ran nazi
indoctrination sessions.

	Not any hut or cabin or mountain refuge, then. Heidegger's
Hütte.  Elsewhere in Celan the word Hütte is used twice,
once in the quote "Friede den Hütten", a foreshortening of the
revolutionary slogan "Krieg den Palästen, Friede den
Hütten," and once in a poem talking of a bamboo hut. The tight
stanza "in der / Hütte" translates the gingerly steps, the
hesitations that must have befallen Celan as he enters the Hütte
as Heidegger's guest. And then the longest - 10-line - stanza, about
the lines written into the guest-book. Before Celan's actual entry, a
further hesitation: Who else recorded his name in the book before him?
What to write in a book that probably carries the names of those nazis
that took part in the 1933 indoctrination sessions?

	What he actually wrote in the book is cited by Pöggeler:
"Ins Hüttenbuch, mit dem Blick auf den Brunnenstern, mit einer
Hoffnung auf ein kommendes Wort im Herzen. Am 25. Juli 1967 / Paul
Celan.8" In the poem, except for necessary syntactical changes, Celan
transforms the actual inscription only slightly. He adds two important
words: heute and eines Denkenden. Heute, today, indicates the burning
necessity of the need for a word to come now, in this situation, in
postwar Germany. The Denkender, the one who thinks is clearly
Heidegger, and is as close as Celan comes to name the philosopher
himself in the poem. There exists, still according to Pöggeler, a
variant version of the poem that inserts the word "ungesäumt"
(without hesitation, without delay) before "kommendes" - another
indication of Celan sense of a burning need for a reply, for a word
from Heidegger.

	The visit is clearly not a simply formal and polite
event. Celan, the survivor of a nazi work camp, orphaned during the
war when both his parents died in work camps, was a very shy man, who
did not engage lightly in social intercourse - but as man for whom the
word "Begeg-nung", encounter, was central. He has clearly come, if not
to confront Heidegger with his past, then to ask for a word - of
explanation, of apology of some sort - from a German philosopher he
considers highly as a thinker, a thinker engaged with poetry
(Hölderlin and Trakl, two essential poets for Celan) but who was
also, at least for some years, deeply involved with the nazi movement.

	The German syntax of this stanza makes, as Pöggeler has
pointed out9, for an an ambiguity: the phrase "im Herzen", in the
heart can mean either "a hope in the heart for a thinker's word" or "a
hope for a word in the heart of a thinker." The first meaning is
rather banal, associating hope with its traditional topos, the heart.
The second possibility - the word in the heart - makes for a much more
complex philosophical argument - one that Pöggeler discusses at
some length, bringing in Augustin, Meister Eckhart, Heraklitus, Laotse
(whom Heidegger translated in the Hütte at one point), as well as
Pindar. Celan's poetics, and the rhythm of his lines, rather clearly
point to this reading. Sullivan's translation, having muffed the
"stardie", now unambiguously, or, in fact rather ostentatiously,
chooses the banal first possibility. We'll come back to why this
choice was the obvious one for him.

	The rest of the poem consists of 5 short stanzas - only one of
which has three lines - and takes us immediately outside again: The
two men go for a walk on the moor in the mountains behind the
Hütte. Celan again uses botany to set the scene:

		"Orchis und Orchis, einzeln,"
		"Orchis and orchis, singly,"

The orchis is indeed a very different flower from the two in the
opening line. It is an orchid, of the genus Orchis, having magenta,
white or magenta-spotted flowers (magenta, a vivid purple red, was
discovered the year of the battle of Magenta and named for that
occasion's bloodiness). Whereas in the first line arnica and
eyebright, two different flowers, are simply juxtaposed, both part of
the same scene as seen, here the same flower, the orchids, standing
for the two men, are separated by the word "und" and, as if that was
not enough to show their seperateness, the last word of the line
insists on it: "einzeln", singly/single.  In German the plant is also
known as "Knabenkraut", "boy's weed", for its testicle-shaped roots
(which, as Pöggeler notes, links it to a number of other Celan
concepts and words such as the "Mandelhode", the almond-testicle, and
the other Orchis poem which talks of the Fünfgebirg Kindheit, the
five- mountain childhood. Pöggeler further mentions the orchis as
symbol of the poet or thinker in buddhist and zen lore.)

	At any rate, the intention here is clear: two men, insisting
on their singularity, on their seperateness, are walking along. The
bright, hopeful A's of the first line have been replaced by the darker
O's - have we come from alpha to omega? (the O of orchis is in fact an
omikron, but then the omikron has usurped the functions of the greek
omega in our, roman, alphabet). And where do they walk? They walk on
"halb- / beschrittenen Knüppel-/Pfaden.." - "half- trod
log-trails", literally on "paths made of wood" - the German Holzwege,
which refers to a path in a forest, but also, in common parlance, to a
dead-end, to a mistaken route, and is, of course, the title of a
well-known book by Heidegger. Celan is too subtle to use Heidegger's
word, and his "log-paths" complexify the image further as Knüppel
- the German word means both "logs" and "rods" - are also used as
weapons to beat people, prisoners, etc.

	"Half-trodden" only: the walk is cut short. Pöggeler
suggests rain, which the final stanza, "Feuchtes, viel", would,
according to him, substan-tiate. But the poem, or Celan, does not
say. The walk is interrupted, the walkers return to the car, Celan is
driven back. In the car there is talk, "Krudes", not a common word in
German, "something crude" passes between Celan and another passenger,
and the poet calls upon the third person present, "he who drives us,
the man", as a witness to this exchange ("he who also hears
it"). Clearly the "Krudes" cannot be the "word in the heart" Celan
expected from the visit.  Clearly, Heidegger did not come through in
the way Celan had hoped.

	I say clearly, but it would seem that it is not at all that
obvious.  Heidegger himself, for example, cannot have read the poem -
the poetic thought embedded in it - that way, or else how could he
have been so pleased that, according to many accounts, he loved to
show off his copy of the limited bibliophile edition of the poem to
his visitors?

	That could still be understandable as the"angle mort", the
blind spot, of Heidegger's vision. Less understandable is the
remarkably wrong-headed reading given by Gadamer in the Heidegger
chapter of his Apprenticeship book, which I'll quote here in the
Sullivan translation:

	"One day the poet Paul Celan appeared among the pilgrims who
made their way to Todtnauberg, and from his meeting with the thinker a
poem came to be. Just think about it: A persecuted Jew, a poet who did
not live in Germany, but in Paris, yet still a German poet, uneasily
ventures this visit. He must have been received by the "consolation of
the eye" of the small rustic property with the running spring "with
the cube of asters on it" as well as by the small rustic man with the
beaming eyes. He inscribes himself in the cottage book, with a line of
hope that he kept in his heart. He walked with the thinker across the
soft meadows, both alone, like the individually standing flowers - the
orchis and the orchis. Only on the way home did it become clear to
Celan what Heidegger had murmured and what still seemed crude. He
understood the daring of a thinking that another - "the man" - could
also hear but without understanding it, the daring of a stepping out
onto the shifting foundation, as onto beaten paths that one cannot
follow to their ends..."
	This is followed by the poem which Gadamer in his original
German text of course quotes in Celan's original German. Now, I think
that after the close, if all too hasty and incomplete, reading of this
poem I proposed above, Gadamer's "interpretation", or rather the use
he puts the poem to for his own purposes, appears clearly as the
"hagiography" Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe called it.  Gadamer does not,
or cannot, or worse, does not want to, read the thought proposed by
Celan's poem and clearly inscribed in the poem. But what interests me
here is not so much Gadamer's intention - understandable as a gesture
of friendship or loyalty to his old teacher whom he is honoring in his
Festschrift - than the effect this has on the translation of the Celan
poem by Gadamer's English translator, Sullivan. Here is that version:

Arnica, eye bright, the draft from the well with the cube of asters on

in the

a line written in the book
- whose name did it receive
before mine? -
a line written in this book
a line about
a hope, today,
for a thinker's
coming word,
a hope in my heart

forest glade, unleveled,
orchis and orchis, seperated,

crude, but later, in traveling,

the one who is driving us, the man,
the one who is listening, too,

the half-
followed, trodden
paths in the high moor,

	This translation not only errs in several places, as shown
above in relation to the "star-dice" of the second line, in terms of
the text's literal word- content, but also, and more gravely, in
completely inscribing Gada-mer's interpretation into the
translation. For example, Gadamer in the text preceding the poem
explicitly states that the line about hope refers to hope in the
poet's heart, and Sullivan goes sofar as to change the line "im
Herzen" to read "a hope in my heart", repeating the word hope to make
sure that its link with the heart is clear, and, to make matters even
worse, changes "the heart" to "my heart,"the kind of tritely lyrical
formulation Celan would never have used. The line "Krudes,
später, im Fahren / deutlich", which I have tried to keep as
close to the German as possible by translating it as "Crudeness,
later, while driving / clearly", Sullivan renders as "crude, but
later, in traveling, / clear", where the interpolated word "but" - not
present in the German text - shifts the meaning outright towards the
direction Gadamer suggests.

	Two more mistranslated words in the Sullivan version, the
second one of which will lead us back to the poem, and we are
done. The word Hütte which, as I think I have shown above, is a
rather loaded term in the Heidegger context, becomes in Sullivan's
version a "cottage" - with all the nice, cosy, vacationing
connotations this word holds in English, thus setting the scene and
reinforcing Gadamer's contention that the poem depicts a troubled,
though great, Jewish poet's visit from the far city of Paris to the
benign elderly Heidegger in his cosy and peaceful countryside retreat,
from whence the poet will be sent back with succour in his heart,
having "finally" understood the great philosopher's words.

	One word, or rather, one compound in Todtnauberg we have not
yet discussed is the one rendered by Sullivan as "forest glades" -
those bucolic meadows where poets and philosphers can sport and relax
and chat. The word Celan uses is "Waldwasen", which is not a common
word, and thus something that should make us aware that the poet
intends something specific here in his way of using language. At first
glance one could conceivably think that the poet has simply have
chosen a erudite or "poetic" word instead of the more obvious and thus
banal "Waldwiesen" - forest meadows, literally, or Sullivan's glades.
Or that Waldwasen was picked because it echoed, darkly, via the two
"a's" following on the two "w"s, the poem's initial "a'-vowel rhyme of
"Arnika, Augentrost".

	But if we look more closely at the word, we will see that the
choice is much more deeply and complexly motivated than mere
"Tonmalerei", "sound- painting". A "Wase", according to Grimm's
Dictionary of the German language, is, first of all, a piece of sod
together with the plants that grow in it. In botany, "ist wasen das in
der Erde befindliche vielverzweigte Wurzelwerk einer Pflanze". Here
already the difference with "glade" is obvious: Celan is not talking
of some grassy surface, a pleasant meadow, but has in mind something
that goes deeper and incorporates the network of underground roots.
His thought is, as usual, directed below the surface. Further, in
North Germany, the term "Wasen" is used essentially as a homonym for
"Torf", turf, peat - a word, and substance, that, as Pöggeler
also points out, plays a role in other Celan poems (something that can
be used for making a fire and something that preserves matter, for
example the Danish peat bogs of prehistoric fame).  From being a
nicely romantic glade, the Waldwase has already become something
slightly "unheimlich," uncanny - to use one of Heidegger's favorite

	There is more. Grimm further glosses "Wasen" as "das Land wo
der Abdecker oder Wasenmeister das Vieh ausweidet und verscharrt, der
Schindanger, in Süddeutschland und am Rhein üblich...",
thus, "the piece of land on which the knacker or "Wasenmeister" (the
"Master of the Wasen") guts and buries the dead livestock, also known
in South Germany and on the Rhine as "Schindanger" - "the knacker's
yard" which one could nearly translate as the "killing fields".

	Celan's substitution of Wasen" for "Wiesen" - meadows, glades
- is, to say the least meaningful.[ Cf. Pöggeler, page
266]. Walking singly - "Orchis und Orchis" - over the "Wasen", Celan
cannot but be close to that realm he is most familiar with: the realm
of the dead. The walk is over a cemetery - at least in his "poetic
thought" - but that is indeed the all-pervasive topos of Celan's
work. This is made even clearer by the next word "uneingeebnet",
"unevened", thus hilly, giving the image of grassy graves, over which
the two walk on "Knüppelpfaden" - paths made out of logs, pieces
of wood; we have seen above that these pieces of wood, at least under
the German form of "Knüppel" remind us of deadly
weapons. Something "unheimlich" - eerie, uncanny, "dreadful" would be
the better term - is going on here.

	Celan came to see Heidegger to ask for a word of apology in
relation to the events of the Second World War: the destruction, like
cattle, of the Jewish people. It is not surprising then, that what
should have been a peaceful countryside walk through glades, was, or
became in the poet's mind and words, a walk over an earth in which the
dead "sich hügeln" - "hill themselves" as Celan says somewhere
else. (The macabre irony, as Pöggeler points out, is of course
that in the extermination camps, the ditches heaped with the gassed
victims and some earth, were frantically kept level, evened, by teams
of workers, so as to render the atrocities as invisible as possible,
to keep any mark from showing above ground. One could add here that if
that obession was indeed present in the extermination camps, it was
not necessarily so in the case of most of the other executions, for
example those of the smaller work camps where people were executed by
a Genickschuss and then hurriedly buried - which is the fate that
befell Celan's parents, and thus likely uppermost in his mind.)

	As I was reading Grimm on "Wase", and found the "Schindanger",
I thought I had gotten to the bottom and that maybe I had already gone
too far in "interpretation", i.e. translation. Then my eye fell on yet
another "Wase", a word current in North Germany, and used to describe
a bundle of dead wood, the etymology of which Grimm leads back through
French "faisceau" to Latin "fasces", the curator's bundle of rods,
which became the symbol of, and gave the word for, "fascism".

	Is this going too far? Is the reader, or translator, or
exegete, or hermeneut digging too far below the surface of the poem's
word? I don't think so. It is exactly in those "semantic geological
stratifications," if I may say so, of that one little word, "Wasen"
used instead of the more usual "Wiesen," i.e., in the substitution of
an "a" for a long "ie," that the poem opens up from the restricted
economy of a containable and constrainable structure (the simple,
tight network of traditional poetic surface devices as exemplified
here by the rhymes of the "a's") to the movement of a more general
economy, a mise-en- ab”me, where "meaning", "reference" etc. begin
to leak, to "bleed" into an unconstrainable chain. This movement, by
the way, is not identical, though related to what Derrida's play on
the "a" of différance entails. In the case of the "a" of Wasen,
the change from Wiesen is audible - no point is being made here in
favor of a general economy of writing as against phonocentric
strictures. In the poem the "a" wants to be heard, is heard in the
surface play of the poem's sound-structure, and because it is heard
there it nearly goes unnoticed: we tend to glide over it, to believe
its raison d'être to be the "music" of the poem. It is only when
we start to question the difference the substitution of the "a" for
the "ie" makes, that we can begin to investigate exactly that
"unheimliche" area of the poem, that literal underground the "a"
points us towards. The movement is thus not, as the surface reading of
the poem's sound structure could lead us believe, simply from the
"hopeful" opening a's to the dark, ominous omega "O's" of the Orchis,
from the "Arnika, Augentrost" pair of healing plants to the two
seperated males taking an aborted walk, a darkness that would suggest
mainly a problem of communication between two humans, thus posing by
the same token the problem as yet another version of the traditional
"Natur-Lyrik" topos of nature vs. culture (and in that banal
structural opposition laying itself open to the possibility of a
simple logical reversal of values, the exact about-face performed by
Gadamer's reading and Sullivan's translation of the text). Rather, the
dark ominous aspect of the poem seen/heard in the o's of Orchis is
already forshadowed in the early a's and opens vertiginously in the
a's of the Waldwasen - another "nature-image."  Celan does not simply
reduce the questions that haunt him to bad or good communications
between humans, to misunderstandings that a better "understanding,"
philosophical or other could sublate. For Celan, that ominous darkness
pervades, is inherent in, the world. Beyond the conten-tion with
Heidegger's specific ideological aberrations, the poem points towards
a radical pessimism that includes, but does not originate in Heidegger
or nazi ideology.  This is a far cry from reading the poem as a hymn
to an overcoming of (ideological) differences - differences, by the
way, never mentioned by Gadamer - through human understanding or
"naturally" acquired wisdom, as the latter does, or even, as
Lacoue-Labarthe does, as the record of Celan's despair over the man
Heidegger's refusal to explain himself or come to terms with or offer
apologies for his past political commitments.
	Celan, the displaced Jewish poet from the Bukowina, who spent
his life in Paris, France, but wrote in German, wrote in that language
of necessity as if/because it was both his language, the mother
tongue, and a foreign language, the other tongue. He worked both the
surface and the deep layers of German, he studied words, deeply, knew
and studied dictionaries as few poets did. Any attempt to translate
him has to deal with that aspect of his work - & despair at ever be
able to render it accurately. How to bring out in a translation the
difference the change from "ie" to "a" has made? I have not found a
word in English that would be truly "accurate" to the German
"Waldwasen", though "sward", the word I am using at this point in the
infinite project of revising, refining, reworking these translations
(the same word is used by Michael Hamburger), which my dictionary
glosses as "Land covered with grassy turf; a lawn or meadow... from OE
sweard, swearth, skin of the body, rind of bacon, etc." comes close
and does have that "a." But then again it does not include the
difference, that essential difference Celan's "a" makes in the
movement of its substitution for the "ie" of Wiesen . What in the
original poem is truly a mise-en- ab”me, becomes in the English
translation only a "poetic" word, albeit solid and useful enough per
se, as its etymology, via the connotations of the "skin" root, creates
a membrane that could possibly be porous enough to lead the reader
through and into the dark underground Celan points to - without
however creating that chain of meanings leading to the "fasces"
connotation of Wasen.

	Tiring, I may be tempted to claim the exegesis, this essay,
and all the other ones dealing with Celan, as the only possible
"translation" of Celan. But that would be the easy way out. A
translation of a poem has to be a poem.  "Poetic thought" - and I take
that term here to mean 'the thinking a poem does in its poemness, its
poetic Eigentlichkeit ' - does not translate into, say, philosophical
thought, or literary-critical thought. Thus the failure of Heidegger
not only to understand this specific poem by Celan, but also the eerie
emptyness one is left with after reading his essays on
Hölderlin's poetry. But, thus also the glow of understanding one
feels when reading, say, Celan's poem on Hölderlin. A poem can
only translate into another poem - maybe a completely other poem, in a
completely other language, in a completely other century. If there is
anything that is completely other. Which is exactly what translation,
in order to exist, has to refuse to believe while being continuously
faced by that very thought as its practical raison d'être, a
thought translation thus has to try to refute at the risk of refuting
itself in that very movement.
							Pierre Joris
							Binghamton, NY. 1988

An early version of this essay was first presented at the "Poetic Thought & 
Translation" Conference at Wake Forest University, October 1988.

REFERENCES 1Otto Pöggeler, Spur des Wortes, Freiburg: Verlag Karl Alber, 1986, pp. 259-271. 2 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Apprenticeships, translated by Robert R. Sullivan, Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1985, pp. 45-55. 3Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, La Poésie comme expérience, Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1986. 4Katherine Washburn and Margret Guillemin, Paul Celan: Last Poems, San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986. 5 Michael Hamburger, Poems of Paul Celan, revised edition published by Persea Books, New York, 1988. 6Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, p. 53. 7Guido Schneeberger, Nachlese Zu Heidegger, Bern 1962. 8Pöggeler, p. 259. 9 Pöggeler, p. 265.