Paul Celan on the Impossibility of Testimony: “Ort meiner eigenen Herkunft”

  • Petar Bojanić Professor, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade
Keywords: testimony, Heimat, home, birth, border


In his poems, Paul Celan does not use words such as territory, border, border crossing, and only very rarely the word space. I would like to reconstruct the traces of “Heimat” in Celan (in a number of poems from different periods “Heimat” plays an important role), and perhaps try to describe what Heimat might have meant for the young Paul Antschel (his real name). That is to say, I would like to understand whether “Heimat” is synonymous with what Celan speaks about, many years after his name change, in the address given on the occasion of the Georg-Buechner- Preis: “Ich suche auch, denn ich bin ja wieder da, wo ich begonnen habe, den Ort meiner eigenen Herkunft.” In the poems written at the time when Antschel is learning Hebrew as well as reading Martin Buber (Israel Chalfen) for the first time, I look for some basic figures Celan ties to his life in Bukovina at the time, in the environment of Czernowitzer Judentums. Aside from the works by Israel Chalfen, Else Keren and Elke Guenzel, I would like to make use of a book published some ten years ago, a detailed listing of Celan’s Paris library. I would like to consult this archive in the coming period, since Celan punctuated the margins of many of those books with evocations of his early creative period.


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Benveniste, Émile (1980), Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, Vol. I-II, Paris: Minuit.
Celan, Paul (2014), Die Gedichte. Kommentierte Gesamtausgabe, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
—. (2011), The Meridian, tr. P. Joris, Stanford, Stanford University Press.
—. (2005), “ ‘Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen‘ Die Prosa aus dem Nachlass”, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
—. (2004), La bibliothèque philosophique, A. Richter, P. Alac, B. Badiou (ed.), Paris: Editions rue Ulm.
—. (2002), Le Méridien & autres proses, tr. J. Launay, Paris: Seuil.
—. (2001), “Bremen Speech,” in: Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, tr. J. Felstiner, New York / London: Norton.
—. (1986), Gesammelte Werke, Vol. III, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
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