An arresting memoir of the final years and tragic suicide of one of twentieth-century Europe's greatest poets.
"Jean Daive's memoir of his brief but intense spell as confidant and poetic confrère of Paul Celan offers us unique access to the mind and personality of one of the great poets of the dark twentieth century."—J.M. Coetzee
Paul Celan (1920–1970) is considered one of Europe's greatest post-World-War II poets, known for his astonishing experiments in poetic form, expression, and address. Under the Dome is French poet Jean Daive's haunting memoir of his friendship with Celan, a precise yet elliptical account of their daily meetings, discussions, and walks through Paris, a routine that ended suddenly when Celan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Seine. Daive's grief at the loss of his friend finds expression in Under the Dome, where we are given an intimate insight into Celan's last years, at the height of his poetic powers, and as he approached the moment when he would succumb to the debilitating emotional pain of a Holocaust survivor.
In Under the Dome, Jean Daive illuminates Celan's process of thinking about poetry, grappling with questions of where it comes from and what it does: invaluable insights about poetry's relation to history and ethics, and how poems offer pathways into a deeper grasp of our past and present. This new edition of Rosmarie Waldrop's masterful translation includes an introduction by scholars Robert Kaufman and Philip Gerard, which provides critical, historical, and cultural context for Daive's enigmatic, timeless text.
Praise for Under the Dome:
"An intimate portrait in fragments? An utterly singular memoir? An essay in poetics? A poem in prose? All these and more. This fluid and indefinable work by Jean Daive has never been far from my thoughts since I first read it decades ago. It breathes with Celan while walking with Celan, walking in the dark and the light with Celan, invoking the stillness, the silence, of the breathturn while speaking for the deeply human necessity of poetry. Now, we are fortunate once again to have available Rosmarie Waldrop's pitch-perfect translation in this most welcome new edition."—Michael Palmer, author of The Laughter of the Sphinx
"'The world always remembers poetry,' says Celan in this staggering epic of talking and silence and walking and translating at tables. It is his poetry that is indeed remembered, however we in the world come to it. The fragments textured together in this more-than-magnificent rendering of Jean Daive’s prose poem by this master of the word, Rosmarie Waldrop, grab on and leave us haunted and speechless."—Mary Ann Caws, author of Creative Gatherings: Meeting Places of Modernism and editor of the Yale Anthology of Twentieth Century French Poetry
"Written in the rhythm of walking, and in the very particular rhythm of walking beside Paul Celan, this stunning book-length prose-poem honors not only the great Romanian-born poet but also the life-long love affair with the word that poetry requires. One of the most important poets of post-WWII France, Daive alone has the consummate sensitivity and mastery of nuance needed to make Celan present again and to evoke the rich background of time and place that allows the story to attain its proper historic proportions. Rosmarie Waldrop's brilliant translation resonates with her profound knowledge of both Celan's and Daive's poetry and the passion for language that she shares with them. The text brings these three major poets together in a highly unusual and wholly successful collaboration."—Cole Swensen, author of On Walking On
"'We never talk about Paul Celan,' certainly not as is done in Under the Dome. In this gem of a poetic memoir, we are as close to breathing and metabolizing the stubborn silences of Paul Celan as it is possible to do so while honoring his life and art. 'Would you translate me?' becomes the code and kernel from which the infinity of Paul Celan’s tragic genius unfolds. How else to talk, sing, or communicate with Paul Celan—who died trying to unpave the road on which the ineffable treads—if not through unraveling language? If Paul Celan’s life force is genomic, or elemental, it replicates and transfers itself through us like a Spinozan miracle. Rosmarie Waldrop takes up Celan’s question to Jean Daive as her own. I cannot unread her inimitable ease in these pages. This is a book that contends with time."—Fady Joudah, author of Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance
"The republication of this arresting translation of Jean Daive's writing about his conversations and encounters with Paul Celan lets us imagine the space and time of Celan's words as they were uttered on the streets of Paris, in its cafes, under the trees, and by the river. Daive's writing is a highly punctuated recollection, a memoir, perhaps a testimony, but also surely a way of attending to the time of the writing, the conditions and coordinates of Celan's various enunciations, his linguistic humility. Yet the words sometimes break free of any context, lingering in a separate space on the page; they follow lived memory, the well-worn interruptions whose repetition finds no resolution. Daive offers small stories, but mainly fragments that follow one another in the wake of the destruction of narrative flow; the tenses change suddenly, putting into a shifting modality of writing a complex memory that refuses to leave a friend. Celan’s death, what Daive calls 'really unforeseeable,' remains as an 'undercurrent' in the conversations recollected here, gathered up again, with an insistence and clarity of true mourning and acknowledgement."—Judith Butler, Author of The Force of Nonviolence