Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan

Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan

Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan

Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan

Synopsis

Contents Shibboleth: For Paul Celan A Self-Unsealing Poetic Text: Poetics and Politics of Witnessing Language Does Not Belong: An Interview The Majesty of the Present: Reading Celan's The MeridianRams: Uninterrupted Dialogue-between Two Infinities, the PoemThis book brings together five powerful encounters. Themes central to all ofDerrida's writings thread the intense confrontation between the most famousphilosopher of our time and the Jewish poet writing in German who, perhapsmore powerfully than any other, has testified to the European experience ofthe twentieth century. They include the date or signature and its singularity; the notion of the trace;temporal structures of futurity and the to come; the multiplicity of languageand questions of translation; such speech acts as testimony and promising, butalso lying and perjury; the possibility of the impossible; and, above all, the questionof the poem as addressed and destined beyond knowledge, seeking to speak toand for the irreducibly other. The memory of encounters with thinkers who have also engaged Celan's workanimates these writings, which include a brilliant dialogue between twointerpretative modes-hermeneutics and deconstruction. Derrida's approach toa poem is a revelation on many levels, from the most concrete ways of reading-for example, his analysis of a sequence of personal pronouns-to the mostsweeping imperatives of human existence (and Derrida's writings are alwaysa study in the imbrication of such levels). Above all, he voices the call toresponsibility in the ultimate line of Celan's poem: The world is gone,I must carry you,which sounds throughout the book's final essay like a refrain. Only two of the texts in this volume do not appear here in English for the first time. Of these, Schibboleth has been entirely retranslated and has been set following Derrida's own instructions for publication in French; A Self-Unsealing Poetic Textwas substantially rewritten by Derrida himself and basically appears here as the translation of a new text. Jacques Derrida's most recent books in English translation include Counterpath: Traveling with Jacques Derrida (with Catherine Malabou). He died in Paris on October 8, 2004. Thomas Dutoit teaches at the Universit de Paris 7. He translated Aporias and edited On the Name, both by Jacques Derrida.

Excerpt

I

Only one time: circumcision takes place only once.

Such, at least, is the appearance given to us, and the tradition of the appearance, let us not say of the simulacrum.

We will have to turn around this appearance. Not so much in order to circumscribe or to circumvent some truth of circumcision; that we must renounce for essential reasons. But rather to let our; selves be approached by the resistance that once may offer to thought. And this is a question of offering, and of what such resistance gives one to think. And resistance will be our theme, too, as it points back to the last war, all wars, clandestine activity, demarcation lines, dis; crimination, passports, and passwords.

Before we ask ourselves what one time “une fois” means, if this means something, and the word time in only one timele mot fois dans une seule fois”; before interpreting, as philosophers or philosophers of language, as hermeneuts or poeticians, the meaning of what is said in French une fois, we should no doubt make a long and thoughtful stop along the linguistic borders where, as you know, one must pro; nounce shibboleth properly in order to be granted the right to pass, indeed, the right to live. Une fois—;nothing, one might believe, is eas; ier to translate than that: einmal, once, one time “in English in the origi; nal”, una volta. As for the vicissitudes of our Latinity: the Spanish vez . . .

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