A Labyrinth _ Celan's poem: Tübingen, Jänner (2 ) _ Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe Analysis

I must remark ... that my posts are only a few quotes and modest notes, for my own pleasure, about the themes I'm fond ...

In his book Poetry as Experience, on "Part I -Two Poems by Paul Celan"(1) - a dense yet incisive text - Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe deals with the status of poetry and the question of Celan's poetry translation. His approach is an attempt to overcome this and to ask: What is going on in methods, what is occurring during the commentary/translation/research process? Two key aspects of Lacoue-Labarthe’s thinking are that translators shall respect the specificity, the very essence of Celan's language and that his language is irrevocably invulnerable to translation/interpretation, because the crucial question of Celan´s poetry is the possibility/impossibility of meaning. Language no longer controls anything, but rather memorializes the nullyfing of concepts and the disruption of the suject.

We can say that each translation almost produces a new poem ...

In this context he presents the translations bellow [...]"only so we can see where we stand." But, he thinks it necessary to remark that the mallarmean style of André du Bouchet's translations does not do justice to the the lapidary hardness, the abruptness of language as handled by Celan. Or rather, the language that held him, ran through him. Especially in his late work, prosody and sintax do violence to language: they chop, dislocate, truncate or cut it. Something in this certainly bears comparison to what occurs in Hölderlin’s last, “paratactic” efforts as Adorno calls them: condensation and juxtaposition, a strangling of language. But no lexical “refinement”, or very little, even when he opts for a sort of “surreal” handling of metaphor or “image”, he does not depart from essentially simple, naked language. For example, the “such” (telle) used twice as a demonstrative in the “mallarmean” translation of “Tübingen Janvier” is a turn of phrase totally foreign to Celan’ style. Even more so the “A cecité même/mues, pupilles”. (To blindness itself/moved pupils). That begins the same poem in what is indeed the most obscure way possible.

Philippe Lacove-Labarthe believes that the poem "Tübingen, Jänner": [...]to be untranslatable, including within their own language, and indeed, for this reason, invulnerable to commentary. They necessarily escape interpretation; they forbid it. One could even say they are written to forbid it. This why the sole question carrying them, as it carried all Celan´s poetry, is that of meaning, the possibility of meaning.
Philippe Lacove-Labarthe, Poetry as Experience, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1990), pp.12-13.

(1) "Tübingen, Jänner" and "Todtnauberg."

Tübingen, Janvier

A cecité même
mues, pupilles.
Leur – “énigme cela,
qui est pur
jaillissement” ─, leur
mémoire de
tours Hölderlin nageant, d’un battement de mouettes

Visite de menuisiers engloutis par
paroles plongeant.

S’il venait,
venait un home,
un home venait au monde aujourd’hui avec
claret et barbe des
patriaches: il lui faudrait,
dû-il parler de telle
époque, il lui faudrait
babiller uniquement babiller
toujours et toujours ba
biller iller


Traduction André du Bouchet in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, op.cit., p. 9

Tübingen, Janvier

Des yeux sous les paroles
Leur ─ “énigme
ce qui naît
de source pur”─, leur
souvenir de
tours Hölderlin nageant, tournoyées
de mouettes.

Visite de menuisiers engloutis par
paroles plongeant:

S’il venait,
venait un homme,
venait un homme au monde aujourd’hui, avec
la barbe de claret
des patriarches: il devrait,
s’il parlait de ce
temps, il
bágayer seulement bégayer


Traduction Martine Broda, in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, op. cit., p.10

Tübingen, Janvier

Sous un flot d’éloquence
aveuglés , les yeux.
Leurs ─ “une énigme est le
pur jailli” ─ leur
mémoire de
tours Hölderlin nageant, tour ─
noyées de mouettes.

Visite de meunuisiers submergés sous
paroles plongeant.

viendrait un homme
viendrait un home au monde, aujourd’hui, avec
la barbe de lumière des Patriarches: il n’aurait,
parlerait-il de ce
temps, il
qu’à bégayer, bégayer
sans sans
sans cesse.
(“Pallaksch. Pallaksch.”)

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthen in Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, op. cit., p.16

Tübingen, January

Beneath a flow of eloquence
blinded, the eyes.
Their – “an
enigma is the
pure sprung forth” -, their
memory of
Hölderlin towers swimming,
wheeled with gulls.

Joiner’s visits submerged beneath
diving words:

If there came
if there came a man
if there came a man into the world today, with
the beard of light of the
Patriarchs: he would need only,
if he spoke of this
time, he would need only,
to stutter, stutter
without, without
without cease.

(Pallaksch. Pallaksch.)

Philippe Lacove-Labarthe, Poetry as Experience, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1990), pp.16-17.

I consider this analysis deeply insightfull:

What these few, barely phrases say, in their extenuated discourse, stuttering on the edge of silence or the incomprehensible (gibberish, idiomatic language “Pallaksh”), is not a “story”, they do not recount anything, and most certainly not a visit to the Hölderlinturm in Tübingen. They undoubtedly mean something; a “message”, as it were, is delivered. They present, in any case, an intelligible utterance: if a man, a Jewish man ─ a Sage, a Prophet, or one of the Righteous, “with/the beard of light of/the Patriarchs”, ─ wanted today to speak forth about the age as Hölderlin did in his time, he would be condemned to stammer in the manner, let us say, of Beckett’s “metaphysical tramps”. He would sink into aphasia (or “pure idiome”), as we are told Höderlin did. In any case, Hölderlin’s “madness”, came to define the aphasic myth:


A sign we are, meaningless
Painless we are and have nearly
Lost our language in foreign places



Philippe Lacove-Labarthe, Poetry as Experience, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1990), p.17.

In the article "Catastrophe" Philippe Lacove-Labarthe argues that "Tübbingen, Jänner literally shatters an image (the reflection)", "Patriarch's beard of light, the stammering" "they may indeed secretly have only one object: the interdiction against representation" [...]

Philippe Lacove-Labarthe, "Catastrophe" in Aris Fioretos, Word Traces: Readings of Paul Celan, (The John Hopkins University Press, 1994, PP.130-158.

1 comentário:

Anónimo disse...

Perche non:)