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The Correspondence of Paul Celan and Ilana Shmueli
Paul Celan, Ilana Shmueli; Norman Manea, intro.; Norman Manea, contrib.; Susan H. Gillespie, trans.

Sheep Meadow
2011 • 280 pp. 1 illus. 6 1/2 x 9"
Biography / Collected Letters

$19.95 Paperback, 978-1-931357-89-0

Ilana Shmueli, originally a childhood friend of Paul Celan’s in Romanian Czernowitz, was to become the last great love of the poet’s maturity. “Das was geschah” (that which happened) as... [continued in Reviews below]”—Mark Glanville, The Times Literary Supplement

An extraordinary dialogue that illuminates the work of the greatest German-language poet since Rilke

“Surely, this correspondence gives us a more intimate understanding of Celan than we have without it. Further, the correspondence introduces Shmueli, an important writer, to English readers for the first time. Ironically, the correspondence is a living account of their old and new environment, their art, culture and intelligence, their extraordinary dialogue. We also encounter the ‘people and books’ that inhabited their biography and their writing, the history of their inner landscape. It is a gift that deserves the deepest and consistent attention—that ‘natural prayer of the soul,’ as Ilana Shmueli says, quoting from Celan and Malebranche.”
—From the Introduction by Norman Manea

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Reviews / Endorsements

“Ilana Shmueli, originally a childhood friend of Paul Celan’s in Romanian Czernowitz, was to become the last great love of the poet’s maturity. “Das was geschah” (that which happened) as he referred to the Holocaust, resulted in his exile to Paris, hers to Tel Aviv. Though their first post-war meeting took place in Israel in 1965, the relationship was not ignited until Celan’s trip to Jerusalem in 1969.... The correspondence concludes with Celan’s final letter, written on April 12, 1970: “Your word, that truthfulness is longing, moved me utterly.” Days later, after failing to reach him, Shmueli returned to Paris and discovered that he had committed suicide by throwing himself in the Seine.... The writer Norman Manea, in an interview with Shmueli included here, questions whether the Holocaust was not so much the motor for Celan’s creativity as the chance vehicle for “his all-important subject, suffering.” Celan’s mental deterioration is revealed in letters that become increasingly brief and impatient, and poems which, Shmueli claims, “sound bitter, dark, they attack.” Celan complains frequently of memory loss, probably the result of the medical treatment he was receiving to cure a mental illness that Shmueli prefers to see as “distress brought on by reality…an uncompromising search for truth.” The translator Susan H. Gillespie rises well to the task of capturing the “half-speech” of Shmueli’s unrestrained flow and Celan’s always considered, often struggled-for language.”Mark Glanville, The Times Literary Supplement

“An indispensable volume for those who would understand the twentieth century.”—George Steiner

From the Book:

ALMONDING ONE, you who only half-spoke,
but trembled through from the core
I left waiting,

And was
not yet
still un-thorned in the stars
of the song, which begins:

PAUL CELAN was born in Romania in 1920. In 1942, his parents were deported and died in an extermination camp. Celan escaped. In 1948 he settled in Paris, which was his home until his suicide by drowning in 1970.

Fri, 9 Nov 2018 09:37:27 -0500