Lifelines: the Correspondence of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann

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Lifelines: the Correspondence of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann

  • Thu 1 Jul 2010
  • 7:00PM
Imported 1216
Imported 1216

London Review Bookshop

14 Bury Place




T 020 7269 9030

2010 marks both the 90th anniversary of the birth, and 40 years since the death, of Paul Celan, arguably the most important German poet of the 20th Century. Wrestling with the creative challenges of responding to the Holocaust, Celan dedicated his life to remaking poetry as a vessel fit for such traumatic times.

Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–73) is equally recognized as one of post–World War II German literature’s most important novelists, poets, and playwrights. It seems only appropriate that these two contemporaries and maestros of language were at one time lovers, and they shared a lengthy artful and passionate correspondence.

Collected here for the first time in English are their letters written between 1948 and 1961. This correspondence forms a moving testimony of the discourse of love in the age after Auschwitz, with all the symptomatic disturbances and crises caused by their conflicting backgrounds and their hard-to-reconcile designs for living—as a woman, as a man, as writers. In addition to the almost 200 letters, the volume includes an important exchange between Bachmann and Gisèle Celan-Lestrange, who married Celan in 1951, as well as the letters between Paul Celan and Swiss writer Max Frisch.

In a unique discussion, translator Wieland Hoban will be joined by acclaimed British novelists Toby Litt and Lawrence Norfolk, to discuss the lives and letters of these two remarkable writers, and to consider the ability of art to engage with the most pressing public and private concerns.

“Scarcely more breathlessly and desperately can two lovers ever have struggled for words. Little known among German literary historians, the relationship between these two poets amounts to one of the most dramatic and momentous occurrences in German literature.” — FAZ, on the German edition.

Wieland Hoban is a British composer who lives in Germany. He has translated several works from German, including many by Theodor W. Adorno

Toby Litt is one of Britain’s leading novelists. The author of ten works of fiction, a committed critic, editor and songwriter, he was nominated in 2003 by Granta magazine as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'. He is currently a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck.

Lawrence Norfolk is an acclaimed novelist known for his hugely ambitious historical works. In 1992 he won the Somerset Maugham Award for his first novel Lemprière's Dictionary. Following his second book, The Pope's Rhinoceros, his most recent fiction is In the Shape of a Boar, which concerns itself directly with the life of Paul Celan.