Maximilian Runge
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
In his 1968 poetry collection „Fadensonnen“, Paul Celan offers a hermetic blend of existentialism and mysticism, which is unusual in two respects. Firstly, the European philosophy of existence, especially with its proponents Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Martin Heidegger, had gone to great lengths to criticize and delegitimize the Abrahametic religions, for the concept of god seemed to be an obstacle to humanity in pursuit of its own humanization. Secondly, in the aftermath of the holocaust, the idea of man wanting to merge with a god that had not prevented this cruelty from happening had lost much of its plausibility. Despite these two objections, Celan's poems address the struggle of togetherness in a world that negates the mere possibility of otherness, trying to salvage the unique identity and dignity of the other. With this in mind, the modus operandi of his poems is that of a butcher: Whatever has previously been alive – before the Shoah – now has to be stripped bare of its layers of individual and collective history, has to become less than body and flesh. In this way, the poems' inherent pain and misery transform the reader into a nobody, for only a nobody has got the prerequisites to encounter other people unbiasedly in their unique wholeness. Within this space of encounter, only the reminiscence of body and sexuality exists, commemorating the other, so that radical corporeality seems to be the prerequisite for togetherness. In this ahistorical sphere there is no room for a god that permitted the holocaust, redefining mysticism as the connection between men instead of one between man and god. Celan's poems act as a catalyst, for they exclude god from the spheres of man, making poetry a memorial site to the dead and the ones living in pain. This way, the poems are trying to save Eros (in the sense of creaturely love) from being mutilated by the crimes of European history while at the same time aiming at rehabilitating mankind in a post-holocaust world.
Keywords Paul Celan  Poetry  philosophy of existence  mysticism  holocaust  Shoa
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