Paul Celan

»an entirely personal matter« - Letters 1934-1970

Edited and commented by Barbara Wiedemann
Paul Celan
Foto: Paul Celan
© Wolfgang Oschatz

Paul Celan was born in Czernowitz in 1920 and passed away in Paris in April 1970. He is internationally recognized as one of the most important authors of the twentieth century.

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Celan Year 2020 – 100th birthday and 50th anniversary of his death

»Actually, there is nothing I would rather do than write letters.«


Paul Celan’s exceptional oeuvre of letters – half of them unpublished so far: An oeuvre, on par with the poetic works, of immense stylistic range. Biographically insightful and poetologically fruitful.

Paul Celan, the most-interpreted German-speaking poet after 1945, is also the author of an eminent opus of letters. In this edition, it becomes visible as its own oeuvre for the first time: in 691 letters, 330 of them unpublished so far, to 252 addressees. Who are these addressees? They are members of Celan’s family, women he loved, authors he was friends with, young and enthusiastic readers, fellow translators, French philosophers as well as German scholars and the employees of numerous publishing houses. All of these letters create a life in letters in chronological order spanning across four decades.

They show Celan as an exceptional correspondent with an immense stylistic range, distinguished by his ability to defer to strangers. The letters reveal a multitude of thus far unknown biographic facts, allow for the specification of his poetology while showing him as a person in his ordinary everyday life at the same time.


»The voluminous edition commentated with exceptional precision and coherence begins with the thirteen-year-old’s letter to his aunt Minna and spans all the way to the moving farewell note to the last lover, Ilana Shmueli, from a man fighting a more and more desperate battle with the darkening thoughts, in which the addressee is asked to keep calm in case there are no further letters.« Oliver Jungen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»The renowned Celan-researcher Barbara Wiedemann has selected and meticulously commented the texts. The result is a reader that movingly documents how a poet, whose parents died in the Holocaust, fell victim to the aftermath of the barbarianism himself but was still able to write verses that belong among the best of that disastrous century. They deserve to find many readers.« Eberhard Geisler, taz. die tageszeitung

»This expressive and impressive mosaic is the great achievement of the editor Barbara Wiedemann, who has been responsible for many a publication on Paul Celan.« Martin Oehlen, Frankfurter Rundschau

»The hitherto unknown letters by Celan contain a few discoveries, their edition itself is eminently meritorious.« Helmut Böttiger, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»In the future one is hardly going to be able to read Paul Celan’s poetic work nor, much more crucially in light of the increasingly more radical taciturnity of his poems, understand them properly without picking up this book and consulting it on which poem corresponds to which biographical back- or sometimes foreground and how.« Alexander Kluy, Wiener Zeitung

Other publications

Die Gedichte/Poems (2018)

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Portuguese rights (Assírio & Alvim)

Herzzeit/Herzzeit (2008)

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English world rights (Seagull), Spanish world rights (Fondo Cultura), Portuguese rights (Antígona), Chinese simplex rights (China Renmin UP), Russia (Ad marginem), France (Seuil), Italy (Nottetempo), Netherlands (Meulenhoff), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Sweden (Ellerströms), Japan (Seidosha), Poland (A5), Czech Republic (Pulchra), Romania (Art), Croatia (OceanMore), Turkey (Kirmizi Kedi), Ukraine (Knihy XXI), Georgia (Ibis)

Briefwechsel/Correspondence (1993)

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English world rights (Sheap Meadow Press), Spanish world rights (Trotta), France (Belin), Italy (Giuntina), Japan (Seiji Biblos), Sweden (Ellerströms), Israel (Keshev)