Letters to Gisèle (Paperback)

Letters to Gisèle By Paul Celan, Jason Kavett (Translated by), Bertrand Badiou (Notes by) Cover Image

Letters to Gisèle (Paperback)

By Paul Celan, Jason Kavett (Translated by), Bertrand Badiou (Notes by)

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Insightful and provocative letters by a great twentieth-century poet to his artist wife about life and, revealingly, his own writing. An intimate look at this canonical poet's process, mental health, and quotidian moments during the early 1950s.

Paul Celan, a Jewish poet born in the Bukovina, now part of Romania, who survived the Nazi genocide and moved to Paris while continuing to write in German, is recognized as one of the most powerful poetic imaginations of the second half of the twentieth century. His work, a touchstone not only for poets but for historians and philosophers, has been translated into countless languages. The letters he wrote to his wife, the artist Gisèle Lestrange, now published for the first time in English, provide the best picture we have of Celan's complicated personality and the course of his life, both private and public. The life was troubled by paranoid episodes and repeated mental breakdowns ending in hospitalization, and in 1970 he committed suicide. At the same time, his devotion to his work as a poet and translator (of Shakespeare, Dickinson, and Mandelstam, among others) was unflagging.

This selection of his letters to Gisèle, which also includes his letters to his young son, Eric, as well as significant number of Gisèle's own letters, covers almost all of his literary career, and while it is a personal document, offering a remarkable protrait of a great poet, a tender husband and father, and a difficult but enduring marriage, it is also a poetic one, providing Celan's translations for Gisèle of his poems from German into French and his extensive commentaries on them. It takes us to Celan's work desk, capturing him in the act of composition while also giving us Celan's reading of Celan. Bertrand Badiou’s notes transmit precious information about Celan’s work and life. The volume also includes photographs and a detailed chronology of the poet's life.
Paul Celan (1920–1970) was born in Romania to German-speaking Jewish parents. During World War II, his parents were deported to and eventually died in a Nazi concentration camp, and Celan himself was interned for eighteen months. Celan settled in Paris after the war, where he worked as a poet and translator, translating a wide range of works, including poetry by Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Charles Baudelaire. Celan received the 1958 Bremen Prize for German Literature and the 1960 Georg Buchner Prize, and he taught German language and literature at the École Normale Supérieure until his death in 1970.

Jason Kavett is a translator of German literature and an assistant professor of German Studies at Bard College.

Bertrand Badiou is the co-director of the Paul Celan Department at the École normale supérieure in Paris, editor of Celan’s works and letters in Germany (Suhrkamp Verlag) and France (Éditions du Seuil). Together with Eric Celan he manages the poet’s estate.
Product Details ISBN: 9781681378305
ISBN-10: 1681378302
Publisher: NYRB Poets
Publication Date: July 30th, 2024
Pages: 256
Language: English