Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann
Paul Celan was born in 1920 in Bucovina, Romania. He became one of the most prominent 20th century poets. Celan committed suicide in Paris, in 1970, before turning 50.
Ingeborg Bachmann was born in 1926 in Klagenfurt, Austria. She wrote poems, libretti, novels and is considered one of the most talented German – Austrian writers of the 20th century. Bachmann died in rather strange circumstances in a fire in Rome, in 1973. She was 47 years old.
The love affair between Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan constitutes one of the most dramatic chapters of literary history after 1945. The respective backgrounds of the lovers who came together in May 1948 in occupied Vienna could not have been more different: she, the philosophy student daughter of an early Austrian member of the NSDAP; he, a stateless German-speaking Jew from Czernowitz who had lost his parents in a concentration camp.
Bachmann to Celan, Vienna, late May/early June, 1949. ABORTED DRAFT
Paul, dear Paul,
I long for you and for our fairy tale. What shall I do? You are so far away from me, and the cards you send, which satisfied me until recently, are no longer enough for me.
Yesterday I received poems of yours through Klaus Demus, poems that were new to me, including three recent ones. I can hardly bear it that they reached me by such a detour. There has to be something there for me too.
I can read them better than the others, for in them I encounter the you I have known since the end of the Beatrixgasse. You are always my concern, I ponder a great deal on it and speak to you and take your strange dark head between my hands and want to push the stones off your chest, free your hand with the carnations and hear you sing. Nothing has happened to me to make me suddenly think more intensely of you. Everything is as usual; I have work and success, and there are somehow men around me, but it means little to me: you, beautiful things and gloomy things are spread over my fleeting days….
Celan to Bachmann, Paris, 20 August 1949
My dear Ingeborg,
So you are only coming in two months – why? You have not told me, nor have you told me for how long, nor told me whether you will receive your scholarship… Do you know, Ingeborg, why I have written to you so little during the last year? Not only because Paris had forced me into a terrible silence from which I could not escape; also because I did not know what you thought about those brief weeks in Vienna…
Perhaps I am mistaken, perhaps we are evading each other in the very place where we would so like to meet, maybe we are both to blame. Except that I tell myself that my silence is perhaps more understandable than yours, for the darkness it imposes upon me is older.
… How far away or close are you, Ingeborg? Tell me, so that I know whether your eyes will be closed if I kiss you now.