NEA Literature Fellowships

John Felstiner*

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(2002 - Prose)

from Correspondance (1951-1970) de Paul Celan et Gisèle Celan-Lestrange
translated by John Felstiner.

Rights held by Suhrkamp Verlag.

Le Vésinet [clinic] - Paul Celan to Gisèle Celan-Lestrange

My dearest! My beloved!

It's two in the afternoon, after lying down (without sleeping) for an hour and a half I've just opened the door to the terrace and garden, a blackbird is walking on the lawn, it's fine weather, the sun is out, a quietness comes over me - I'm writing to you.

Today is the day before I go home, I've been thinking about it since this morning. Tomorrow, about this same time, you'll come to Le Vésinet, you'll arrange what needs arranging at the clinic office, then you'll come get me and with you I'll find our home again, the one on rue de Longchamp, and the one at Moisville, these two homes where you've waited for me with Eric.

Thank you, my Beloved, thanks again and again for everything you are, everything you do!

I know well enough there are many things that still need overcoming. We will overcome them.


And we shall take up our work again. I saw your etchings being born alongside my poems, born from those very poems, and you know that Atemkristall, which again opened up the paths of poetry for me, was born from your etchings. - So how could we not rediscover, in the deepest part of ourselves, what helped us and will help us live along with Eric? Surely we'll recover all that's ours, recover our strength and our joy.

I hope you'll receive these lines tomorrow morning, to start the day.

Hug our son Eric, hug him close, tenderly. I put my arms around you both, I am with you, I embrace you.

John Felstiner was awarded his second Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002 to translate the letters of poet Paul Celan and his wife, French artist Gisúle Celan-Lestrange. Written between 1951 and 1970, when Celan committed suicide, the more than 600 letters explore critical aesthetic questions and include first drafts of renowned poems. Mr. Felstiner received his first NEA fellowship in 1984 for the translation of Celan's poetry. He has also received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. His books include Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu, which won the California Commonwealth Club Gold Medal for Non-fiction, Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew, which won the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism, and Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, which won translation prizes from the American Translators Association, Modern Language Association, and PEN West. He has taught at the University of Chile, Yale University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is currently a professor of English at Stanford University.

Translator's Statement