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Letters to Gisèle

Letters to Gisèle

by Paul Celan, translated from the French by Jason Kavett, notes by Bertrand Badiou

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Paul Celan is recognized as one of the most significant European poets of the second half of the twentieth century. Born in Czernowitz, then part of Romania and now in Ukraine, he survived the Nazi genocide and eventually settled in Paris. His work, a touchstone for other poets, writers, and philosophers, has been translated into many languages. The letters he wrote to his wife, the artist Gisèle Celan-Lestrange, provide an intimate view of key turning points in Celan’s literary career as well as of the most difficult moments of his life, spent in psychiatric clinics, during which he continued to write.

Letters to Gisèle, which also includes letters to his young son, Eric, as well as a selection of Gisèle’s own letters, also presents a Celanian sense of humor shared with his wife and son. The reader of this volume will discover or rediscover poems sent by Celan to his wife with word-for-word translations and lists of translated or explained vocabulary words. These materials are made available here for the first time in an English-language publication, which seeks to take into account the secret dialogue between languages within each letter or poem. The notes include reproductions of Celan’s annotations in the margins of his books, almost giving the impression of looking over the shoulder of the poet as he is reading or writing. The volume also includes photographs of Celan’s family and reproductions of manuscripts of poems and letters, as well as a selection of etchings by Gisèle Celan-Lestrange.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN: 9781681378305
Pages: 416
Publication Date:


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