“Speak, You Also” – Remembering Paul Celan’s Birth

As Jacques Derrida noted several times in his celebrated essay on Paul Celan entitled “Shibboleth,” Paul Celan wrote several poems dedicated to anniversaries.  For Derrida, these repetitions of important dates operate to have us think about the tension between a date’s unique character and how, through its repetition, a date can also be effaced.  This […]

‘I Am Here, I’ve Come’: An Interpretation of Paul Celan’s “Conversation in the Mountains” – (Take 2)

We like to repeat ourselves.  And oftentimes we forget what we said before and are reminded by our friends that “we already said that.” Nonetheless, people being people, we forget and do it again.  The people most susceptible to this blindness are older people.  However, sometimes repetitions – which are seemingly absent-minded – are full […]

‘I Am Here, I’ve Come’: An Interpretation of Paul Celan’s “Conversation in the Mountains” – (Take 1)

At the very least, John Felstiner – in Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew – acknowledges that Paul Celan’s “Conversation in the Mountains” has a comic aspect to it: “Conversation in the Mountains,” brief yet gabby, humorous yet fateful, reflects on selfhood, language, perception, God, and nature by way of a journey into the mountains.  What […]

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” A Preface to Paul Celan’s “Conversation in the Mountains”

As a Jew, I can assure you that Jews love to talk.  In their work on the schlemiel, Ruth Wisse and Sidrah DeKoven Ezrahi see the schlemiel’s speech as a kind of “substitute” sovereignty.   Ezrahi tells us that before Israel, speech, not action, was the best defense.  And for centuries there was a historical principle […]

A Note on Paul Celan’s Minor Language in “Conversation in the Mountains”

Although Celan’s “major” language was German (a language he was raised with and wrote his poetry in), Celan’s work was also influenced by “minor” languages.  The contrast between major and minor languages comes from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature.    In the book, the proposal is made that we rethink […]

Conversations in the Mountains between Franz Kafka and Paul Celan – Part II

I ended the last blog entry by drawing a limit or threshold between Kafka’s conversation and Nietzsche’s singing.   To be sure, Kafka, at the end of his piece, wonders why his group of nobodies isn’t singing.  Their conversation in the mountains is “free” like the winds but it doesn’t break into song, while Nietzsche’s speech […]

Conversations in the Mountains between Franz Kafka and Paul Celan – Part I

For Friedrich Nietzsche, the place to clear out one’s mind and find oneself or one’s calling (so to speak) is in the mountains.   In Thus Spake Zarathustra, the main figure, Zarathustra, goes into the mountains and has his epiphany.  In the mountains, Zarathustra takes on the serious task of becoming himself.  However, he also learns […]