Power of the unspoken

Karl Ove Knausgaard:

Paul Celan’s mysterious, cipher-like language has nothing to do with inaccessibility or closedness, quite the contrary, it is about opening up what language normally does not have access to but that we still, somewhere deep inside us, know or recognize, or if we don’t, allows us to discover. Paul Celan’s words cannot be contradicted with words. What they possess cannot be transformed either, the word only exists there, and in each and every single person who absorbs it.

The fact that paintings and, to some extent, photographs were so important for me had something to do with this. They contained no words, no concepts, and when I looked at them what I experienced, what made them so important, was also nonconceptual. There was something stupid in this, an area that was completely devoid of intelligence, which I had difficulty acknowledging or accepting, yet which perhaps was the most important single element of what I wanted to do.

 

Marjorie Perloff

Why did Bachmann stop writing lyric poems?  In an interview, she remarked: “I have nothing against poems, but you must try to understand that there are moments when suddenly, one has everything against them, against every metaphor, every sound, every rule for putting words together, against the absolutely inspired arrival of words and images.”  What she means here, I think, is that, in the writing of lyric, she couldn’t seem to get around the male and patriarchal voice so powerful in German poetry.  “I had only known,” Bachmann admitted in 1971, “how to tell a story from a masculine position.  But I have often asked myself: why, really?  I have not understood it, not even in the case of the short stories.”  Then, too, Bachmann feared, as did her contemporary Paul Celan, that German lyric too easily falls into the trap of “harmony,” the harmony which, as Celan puts it, “no longer has anything in common with that ‘harmony’ which sounded more or less unchallenged, side by side with the most dreadful.”  The reference here is of course to the Holocaust

 

Ingeborg Bachmann

Celan’s poem for Ingeborg Bachmann:

In Ägypten

Du sollst zum Aug der Fremden sagen: Sei das Wasser.
Du sollst, die du im Wasser weißt, im Aug der Fremden suchen.
Du sollst sie rufen aus dem Wasser: Ruth! Noëmi! Mirjam!
Du sollst sie schmücken, wenn du bei der Fremden liegst.
Du sollst sie schmücken mit dem Wolkenhaar der Fremden.
Du sollst zu Ruth und Mirjam und Noëmi sagen:
Seht, ich schlaf bei ihr!
Du sollst die Fremde neben dir am schönsten schmücken.
Du sollst sie schmücken mit dem Schmerz um Ruth, um Mirjam und Noëmi.
Du sollst zur Fremden sagen:
Sieh, ich schlief bei diesen!

 

 

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