pseudonym of Paul Antschel
born Nov. 23, 1920, Cernăuți, Rom.
[now Chernovtsy, Ukraine]
died May 1, 1970, Paris, Fr.
poet who, though he never lived in
Germany, gave its post-World War II
literature one of its most powerful and
regenerative voices. His poetry was
influenced stylistically by French
Surrealism, and its subject matter by
his grief as a Jew.
When Romania came under virtual Nazi
control in World War II, Celan was sent
to a forced-labour camp, and his parents
were murdered. After working from 1945
to 1947 as a translator and publisher’s
reader in Bucharest, Celan moved to
Vienna, where he published his first
collection of poems, Der Sand aus den
Urnen (1948; “The Sand from the Urns”).
From the outset his poetry was marked by
a phantasmagoric perception of the
terrors and injuries of reality and by a
sureness of imagery and prosody.
Settling in Paris in 1948, where he
had studied medicine briefly before the
war, he lectured on language at the
École Normale and translated French,
Italian, and Russian poetry, as well as
Shakespeare, into German. His second
volume of poems, Mohn und Gedächtnis
(1952; “Poppy and Memory”), established
his reputation in West Germany. Seven
volumes of poetry followed, including
Lichtzwang (1970; “Lightforce”). The
fullest English translation of his work
is Speech-Grille and Selected Poems
(1971). He died by his own hand.