Poem as witness, as transmitter of multiple meanings, coming from an unknown space, remaining beyond the reach of universal language and aesthetic forms and norms, is conditioned as an act of resistance and struggle, a protest against violence and political order – carrying the ghost of witness through time. Celan calls upon his readers to become not simply recipients of an achievement of language, but to become someone capable of experiencing and responding in multiple ways – of being able to bond together the multitude of witnesses instead of the multitude of victims in our post-traumatic age. (I wrote this while studying and working as a graduate assistant at the University of Toronto on the topic of Poetry of Witness.)
Starting tomorrow a very interesting workshop – Paul Celan in Translation. Praxis, Poetics, Resistances. Paul Celan et la traduction. Pratiques, poétiques, résistances – will be held at Université de Genève. This two-day workshop will provide a forum to reflect on the relations between poetry, poetics and translation around the figure of Celan. If the work of the poet Paul Celan was chosen as the foundation it’s because Celan’s œuvre bridges three major preoccupations of contemporary criticism: the emergence of the figure of the poet-witness, the importance of translation and the inter-language, and the relationship of poetry and philosophy. It will also investigate the importance of Celan for certain contemporary philosophers and poets – whether it is true that Celan is a provocation to think about the relationship between poetry and philosophy for a large number of 20th century philosophers (Heidegger, Adorno, Gadamer, Derrida, Badiou, to cite a few).