P i e r r e J o r i s
P i e r r e J o r i s
In Heidegger's Germany, there is no place for Paul Celan. 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 it, in the cottage, 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, clear, the one who is driving us, the man, the one who is listening, too, the half- followed, trodden paths in the high moor, moist, very. 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 terms. 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.