Shorter Reviews: Classic French and German Works
Paul Celan Snow Part/Schneepart translated by Ian Fairley, Carcanet, 195pp, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-85754944-7; Poems of Paul Celan, translated by Michael Hamburger, Anvil, 432pp, hardback, £25, ISBN 978-0-85646-399-0 Two volumes dedicated to the work of the influential twentieth-century German-Jewish poet: Ian Fairley’s translation of Schneepart is the first English version of Celan’s bold collection, written amidst the turmoil of Europe in 1968, and published in 1971, a year after the poet’s death. Fairley’s stark, striking versions admirably capture Celan’s dense poetic experimentations (‘TO THE ORDER OF THE NIGHT Over-/ridden, Over-/slidden, Over-/swithined’) and form a companion volume to his acclaimed 2001 translation of Celan, Fathomsuns and Benighted. Poems from Schneepart also appear in Anvil’s new, third edition of Michael Hamburger’s selected translations of Celan, published shortly before Hamburger’s death earlier this year. This is a beautiful volume with Hamburger’s precise, crystal-clear versions even more remarkable given his claim in the Preface to this new edition that merely correcting its proofs was ‘to revisit a battlefield, retrace my struggle over decades with texts that were a tug-of-war between life and death’. We can only be grateful that he did.