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Celan, Paul

Born: 1920 AD
Died: 1970 AD
2.6 (52.73%) 22 votes

1920 – He was born on the 23rd day of November this year in Cernauti, Bukovina, and then part of Romania.


1927 – His father, Leo Antschel, was a Zionist who advocated his education in Hebrew at Safah Ivriah, an institution previously convinced of the wisdom of assimilation into Austrian culture, and one which favourably received Chaim Weizmann of the World Zionist Organization.


1933 – After his Bar Mitzvah in this year, Celan abandoned Zionism at least to some exten, and terminated his formal Hebrew education, instead becoming active in Jewish Socialist organizations and fostering support for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War.


1938 – His earliest known poem, titled Mother’s Day 1938 was a sentimental, if earnest, profession of love. He travelled to Tours, France to study medicine (the newly-imposed Jewish quota in Romanian universities and the Anschluss precluded Bucharest and Vienna.


1939 – He returned to Cernauti in this year to study literature and Romance languages.


1941 – On arrival in July of this year, the German SS Einsatzkommando and their Romanian allies burned down the city’s six-hundred-year-old Great Synagogue. In October, the Romanians deported a large number of Jews after forcing them into a ghetto, where Celan translated William Shakespeare’s Sonnets and continued to write his own poetry, all the while being exposed to traditional Yiddish songs and culture.


1944 – Celan remained in these labour camps until February of this year, when the Red Army’s advance forced the Romanians to abandon them, whereupon he returned to Cernauti shortly before the Soviets returned to reassert their control.


1947 – Considering emigration to Palestine and wary of widespread Soviet antisemitism, Celan left Soviet-occupied territory for Bucharest, where he remained until this year.


1951 – He met the graphic artist Gisèle Lestrange, in Paris.


1952 – They married on December 21 of this year, despite the opposition of her aristocratic family, and during the following 18 years they wrote over 700 letters, including a very active exchange with Siegfried Lenz and his wife, Hanna. He made his living as a translator and lecturer in German at the École Normale Supérieure. In the same year, he received an invitation to the semiannual meetings of Group 47. At a 1953 meeting he read his poem Todesfuge ("Death Fugue"), a depiction of concentration camp life.


1967 – Celan gave a lecture at the University of Freiburg on July 24 of this year, which was attended by Heidegger, who gave Celan a copy of Was heißt Denken? and invited him to visit his work retreat "die Hütte" ("the hut") at Todtnauberg the following day and walk in the Schwarzwald.


1955 – Celan became a French citizen in this year.


1970 – He lived in Paris until his suicide by drowning in the Seine River in late April of this year.

2.6 (52.73%) 22 votes