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Paul Celans 'Zähle die Mandeln', a critical commentary

Essay 2001 14 Seiten

Germanistik - Komparatistik, Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft

Leseprobe

ZÄHLE die Mandeln,
zähle, was bitter war und dich wachhielt,
zähl mich dazu:

Ich suchte dein Aug, als du’s aufschlugst und niemand dich ansah,
ich spann jenen heimlichen Faden,
an dem der Tau, den du dachtest,
hinunterglitt zu den Krügen,
die ein Spruch, der zu niemandes Herz fand, behütet.

Dort erst tratest du ganz in den Namen, der dein ist,
schrittest du sicheren Fußes zu dir,
schwangen die Hämmer frei im Glockenstuhl deines Schweigens,
stieß das Erlauschte zu dir,
legte das Tote den Arm auch um dich,
und ihr ginget selbdritt durch den Abend.

Mache mich bitter.
Zähle mich zu den Mandeln.[1]

COUNT the almonds,
count what was bitter and kept you awake,
count me in:

I looked for your eye when you opened it, no one was looking at you,
I spun that secret thread
on which the rope you were thinking
slid down to the jugs
guarded by words that to no one’s heart found their way.

Only there did you wholly enter the name that is yours,
sure-footed stepped into yourself,
freely the hammers swung in the bell frame of your silence,
the listened for reached you,
what is dead put its arm around you also
and the three of you walked through the evening.

Make me bitter.
Count me among the almonds.[2]

COUNT the almonds,
count what was bitter and kept you awake,
count me among them:

I sought your eye when you opened it and no one was looking at you,
I spun the secret thread
on which the dew you were thinking
slid down to the jugs
guarded to by words that to no one’s heart found their way.

Only there did you wholly enter the name that is yours,
sure-footed stepped into yourself,
freely the hammers swung in the bell-frame of your silence,
the overheard reached you,
what is dead put its arm round you also
and the three of you walked through the evening.

Make me bitter.
Count me among the almonds.[3]

The poem ‘Zähle die Mandeln’ (‘Count the almonds’) comes last in Paul Celan’s first official publication Mohn und Gedächtnis. Published in 1952 the collection is divided into four parts “Der Sand aus den Urnen”, the single poem ‘Todesfuge’ (‘Death Fugue’), “Gegenlicht” and “Halme der Nacht”. It is my favourite collection of poems by one of my favourite authors. My choice of poem is not necessarily a conscious decision against all other 55 in this collection, although I did indeed decide against the ‘Death Fugue’ as this – Celan’s most famous poem – has already been discussed so many times over, that I felt there was not much room for my own ideas left. Otherwise, my choice was non-academic. I have selected ‘Zähle die Mandeln’ simply because I was fascinated by its language and images.

Celan’s poetry is generally viewed as extremely enigmatic[4], so far, I have never tried to extract its meaning as I thought, that this was impossible, a mistake, that – as I learned later in my research – many contemporary readers made as well. One reason why Celan’s poetry appears inaccessible is because image and symbol lie right at the centre of his poems: in fact, they make up the entire poem, as there is no word that does not have at least two possible meanings. Another reason is that, although German was his mother tongue, Celan never lived in a German- speaking country. He spent his youth in Czernowitz, Bukowina[5]. This shows in his work in so far as his images and word inventions are not born of the German linguistic tradition alone. Instead, although he writes in German, in his plays on words and association he includes Hebrew, French, Rumanian and Russian sayings and the like. In tone and style his poetry is similar to that of Rose Ausländer[6], Ingeborg Bachmann and Nelly Sachs.

Like theirs his poetry deals with the holocaust, but on a very personal level. The most important biographical element, which runs through all of his work, is the loss of his mother, who was murdered in Auschwitz. Contrary to the critic Emmerich, I do not believe that this is directly relevant to ‘Zähle die Mandeln’. This I will discuss later in my essay.

But first I want to make a few remarks on the difficulty of translating Celan and on this particular version by Michael Hamburger. After this I will try to get as close to fully explaining the poem as possible. I will outline my personal understanding of it and then contrast this with the viewpoints of five critics.

[...]


[1] Paul Celan, Mohn und Gedächtnis, Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, Stuttgart - München, 2000, (page 73)

[2] Paul Celan: Poems, ed., trans. Michael Hamburger, Carcanet New Press Limited, Manchester, 1980,
(page 69).

[3] This is my own translation.

[4] This is even more true of Celan’s later works e.g. the collection “Eingedunkelt” which was published posthumously.

[5] This region first belonged first to the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, then to Rumania, then to the Soviet union and is now part of the Ukraine.

[6] Born in the Czernowitz, too, in her poem “Bukowina IV” R. Ausländer describes the region as “Vierliederland”, and “die vielgestaltige Heimat”.

Details

Seiten
14
Jahr
2001
ISBN (eBook)
9783638185776
ISBN (Buch)
9783638757812
Dateigröße
488 KB
Sprache
Deutsch
Katalognummer
v12773
Institution / Hochschule
University of Canterbury – School of European Culture and Languages
Note
75 (entspricht eins)
Schlagworte
Celan Mandeln Gedichtanalyse Lyrik Uebersetzung

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Titel: Paul Celans 'Zähle die Mandeln', a critical commentary