Friends: Demus, left, and Celan in Paris, 1953.
“[I]n 1960, Celan explains how an ongoing critical campaign against him, fueled by Goll’s attacks, fosters the old story of the Jewish charlatan, in which the 'master plagiarist,' Celan, steals another poet’s work.”
Photo Credit: Klaus Demus; 1953
Source: The Forward
In "Paul Celan's Letters," Ivrey, gives some background on Celan and some of the causes that might have led him to take his own life, which suggests that he had help in making this final decision.
Biographers have a vested interest in hyping their subjects, but when Paul Celan’s biographer, John Felstiner, calls the latter “Europe’s most compelling postwar poet,” surely few can argue. Like most books on the Romanian Celan, Festiner’s “Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew” (Yale University Press, 2001) underlines how his wartime experience in a forced-labor camp (while his parents perished in an internment camp) molded his stunningly inventive use of the German language: his mother tongue and a murderer’s tongue.
Celan, born Paul Antschel in Cernăuţi, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine), is usually written about in the context of the Shoah — as a poet survivor — but a new publication suggests that his most definitive life torments may have occurred after the war was over. Suhrkamp Verlag Germany has just published “Paul Celan, Klaus Demus, Nani Demus: Briefwechsel,” a fascinating new volume of previously unavailable correspondence between Celan and two Austrian friends, Klaus and Nani Demus.
The letters it contains show how simply trying to exist by writing and translating poetry in postwar Europe eventually drove Celan to suicide in Paris. The moving letters it contains recount how a great Jewish poet was egged on to self-destruction in the name of two mediocre poets who happened to be Jewish. Claire Goll, born Clara Aischmann, widow of the mediocre Surrealist poet Yvan Goll (born Isaac Lange), launched these machinations. The Golls spent the war years in safety in America and returned to postwar Europe, after which Yvan Goll died prematurely of leukemia. Celan had translated some of Goll’s poetry into German, as he had translated dozens of other English- and French-language authors, but as a 2000 study from Suhrkamp, “The Goll Affair: Documents Surrounding an ‘Infamy’ (“Die Goll-Affäre — Dokumente zu einer ‘Infamie’”), sadly details, Claire Goll devoted herself to relentlessly defaming Celan as a plagiarist of her husband’s work, quite literally driving the great poet to madness and suicide.