Paul Celan is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest European poets of the 20th century, as important in the pantheon of German language poets as Goethe and Holderlin. In the words of critic and translator John Felstiner, Celan’s star glitters brightly for anyone ‘who cares about anything to do with history, truth, poetry and human survival’.
Celan was a German-speaking Romanian Jew who lived most of his adult life in exile in Paris. He committed suicide in 1970, leaving behind a body of remarkable poems, two of which feature in the program: Todesfuge, or Death Fugue, and Todtnauberg.
Death Fugue was Celan’s first great poem and it talks about life in the Nazi death camps in startling new ways, while Todtnauberg is an enigmatic account of Celan’s meeting in 1967 with the famous – or perhaps infamous – German philosopher Martin Heidegger, at Heidegger’s remote mountain hut in the Black Forest.
This encounter between the great Jewish poet and the philosopher notorious for his Nazi sympathies was in fact the starting point for today’s feature. But as you’ll hear, once 360 producer Tony MacGregor started looking into the story, he became swept up into something far richer and far more compelling than he had ever imagined.
The feature incorporates two monologues written by the Australian playwright Stephen Sewell, in which he imagines how both Celan and Heidegger might reflect upon their fateful encounter in the Black Forest.
Guests: John Felstiner, Stanford University
Adam Sharr, University of Wales
Flor and Edward Jaku, Holocaust survivors, Sydney
Tony Stephens, University of Sydney
Dennis Del Favero: Todnauberg, Exhibition at the University of Queensland
Title: Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew
Author: John Felstiner
Description: A critical biography of Celan