Mutterland

11:43 AM Posted by James Owens

"Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, 'enriched' by it all."

-Paul Celan
Speech upon receiving the Bremem Prize for literature, 1958


*

Mutterland

Mein Vaterland ist tot
sie haben es begraben
im Feuer

Ich lebe
in meinem Mutterland --
Wort


Motherland

My Fatherland is dead.
They buried it
in fire

I live
in my Motherland --
Word


-Rose Ausländer
Trans. Eavan Boland

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3 comments:

Sorlil said...

That's an amazing thing for Celan to say - that language was enriched by it all, I would have thought the opposite.

anhaga said...

He did say it, and he meant it in a way, I guess. But notice the ironic, inverted commas around "enriched." Enrichment at the cost of such destruction, such impoverishment. This was the paradox of his life, the bind he was in: It was impossible for Celan to be a poet in this "enriched" German. It was impossible for him not to be one.

ffflaneur said...

reminds Hannah Arendt's answer to the question "what remains? " : "the language remains ... "