On the Difficulties of Writing a Biography of Paul Celan
Where: Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
212-998-8660 Price: Free
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Deutsches Haus at NYU presents a lecture by Thomas Sparr, the editor-at-large at the Suhrkamp Verlag in Berlin, on the “Difficulties of Writing a Biography of Paul Celan,” followed by a conversation with Professor Ulrich Baer, NYU’s Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity.
Paul Celan is perhaps the most important poet to have written in the German language in the 20th century. 2020 marks the anniversary of Celan’s 100th birthday, which will be commemorated worldwide. No other author better presents the history of the last century, especially the experience of the Holocaust. The significance of Celan’s work, his long journey through Europe, and the profound effect of his poems, however, pose challenges to writing his biography. Another aspect to be considered in this context is how Celan’s poetry tends to irritate or even to destroy a common meaning. This lecture will use images to illustrate elements of Celan’s biography, and demonstrate the difficulties in writing it. The presentation and the following discussion with Professor Ulrich Baer will develop a model to describe Celan’s life—focusing on his most famous poem, Death Fugue.
Thomas Sparr has taught at the University of Hamburg and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1990 he acted as the editor and managing director at the Jüdischer Verlag, the Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt, and the Siedler Verlag in Berlin and Munich. He is now the editor-at-large at the Suhrkamp Verlag in Berlin.
Ulrich Baer received his B.A. from Harvard in 1991, and his Ph.D. from Yale in Comparative Literature in 1995, and was first appointed at NYU as Assistant Professor of German in 1996. A widely published author, editor, and translator, he is an expert on poetry, literary theory, and photography, and has published extensively on these and other topics. He has lectured in many locations around the world on the globalization of higher education, and on diversity as the means to institutional excellence. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, NYU’s Golden Dozen Teaching Award (twice), a Getty Research Fellowship, and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. Among his books are We Are But a Moment, The Rilke Alphabet, Beggar’s Chicken: Stories from Shanghai, Hannah Arendt zwischen den Disziplinen (co-editor), The Claims of Literature: A Shoshana Felman Reader (co-editor), Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters on Life (translator and editor), Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma, the anthology 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11, and Remnants of Song: Trauma and the Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan.
Events at Deutsches Haus are free of charge. If you would like to attend this event, please send us an email to [email protected]. Space at Deutsches Haus is limited; please arrive ten minutes prior to the event. Thank you!
“On the Difficulties of Writing a Biography of Paul Celan” is a DAAD-sponsored event.