The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Occupiability: Paul Celan’s Radicalized Concept of Translation

From Paul Celan‘s speeches “The Meridian” and “Bremen Speech” his concept of occupiability can be reconstructed as a radicalized concept of translation. Celan’s poem, “AUS DEM MOORBODEN” acts out this concept of occupiabilty in an exemplary way: like Benjamin’s philosophy of translation, Celan’s poem considers translation to be a displacement and disfiguration of language. As Werner Hamacher has shown, Celan`s poem “AUS DEM MOORBODEN” seems to have lost the “decayed barriers” of the German language. The syntactic and semantic indeterminacy, in constellation with the syllabic word-stumps, opens up the language of the poem, although not in any way that would invite vague and arbitrary interpretations. On the contrary, the occupiability of Celan’s poems appears, as Adorno would say, as an acutely “determinate indeterminacy” (bestimmte Unbestimmtheit), through which conventional readings are obstructed and opened anew.

Next to “The Meridian” and “Bremen Speech” three poems from the years 1967 and ‘68 circle around the concept of occupiability: “… AUCH KEINERLEI” from the volume FADENSONNEN, written on May 7, 1967 at the university psychiatric hospital, “EIN LESEAST” an unpublished poem from the period of SCHNEEPART written on August 21–22, 1968 in Paris, Rue Tournefort, and “OFFENE GLOTTIS,” also unpublished, also from the period of SCHNEEPART, written at Rue Tournefort in Paris on the same day as “AUS DEM MOORBODEN”.

Besides introducing Celan‘s concept of occupiabilty, the talk aims to provide readings of Celan‘s three occupiabilty poems.