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Celan - The Meridian

Celan - The Meridian

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Published by Steven Miller

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Published by: Steven Miller on Nov 24, 2012
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12/04/2012

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PaulCelan
THEMERIDIAN
Ladiesandgentlemen!-/jLRT,you willremember,has thequalitiesofthemarionetteandtheiambicpentameter.Furthermore?andthischaracteristicisattestedinmythology,inthestoryofPygmalionandhiscreature?it isincapableofproducingoffspring.Inthisformartconstitutesthesubjectofaconversationwhichtakesplaceinaroom,and notintheConciergerie,aconversationwhich,aswesee,couldbeindefinitelyprolongedifnothingwere
tointervene.
Butsomethingdoesintervene.Artreappears.Itis foundinanother workbyGeorgB?chner,
in"Wozzek,"whereitappearsasoneofmanynamelesscharac
ters,and "inthemorelividlightofathunderstorm,"?ifImightbepermittedtoconveyaphrasecoinedbyMoritz Heimaninreferenceto"Danton's Death."Artmakesanotherappearance,unchanged,althoughthetimesaretotallydifferent,introducedbyabarker.Hereithasnoconnectionwitha"glowing,""surging,"and"shining"creationasitdidintheconversationmentionedabove.Thistimeartappearswithamemberof theanimalkingdomand the"nothin'"thatthis creature"hason."Thistimeartappearsintheform ofamonkey.Itis,however,oneandthesame?weareimmediatelyable torecognizeitbythe"coatand29
 
trousers." Andart isalso introducedtousinathirdworkbyB?chner,"L?once and Lena." Timeandlightareherenolongerrecognized.We findourselves"inflighttoParadise";"all clocksandcalendars"are soontobe"destroyed"or"proscribed."Butfirst "twopersons,oneof eachsex"arepresented,"twoworldfamousrobotshavearrived,"andapersonwhoannouncesthatheis"perhapsthethird andmostremarkable ofthetwo"challengesusinaraspytonetogazewithastonishmentatwhat is beforeoureyes:"Nothingbutartandmechanism,nothingbut cardboardandwatchsprings."Artappearshere withalargerretinue thanbefore,butweimmediatelyseethatit isinthecompanyofitsownkind;it isthesameart,thesameartwehaveseenbefore.Valerio is but anothernameforthehawker.Art,ladiesandgentlemen,with all thatpertainstoit andremainstobeappliedtoit,isindeedaproblem,as onesees,aproblemwhich ishardy, long-lived,andtransformable?thatis to
say,eternal.
Aproblemwhich allowsamortal, Camille,andapersonwhocanbeunderstoodonlyinthecontextofhisdeath,Danton,tostringwordstogetheratgreatlength.It iteasyenoughtotalk
aboutart.
Butwhenartisbeingtalked about thereisalwayssomeonepresentwho doesn't listenverycarefully.Moreprecisely:someonewho hearsandlistensand looks. . .andthen doesn'tknow whattheconversationwasallabout.Butwho hears thespeaker,who"sees himspeak,"whohasperceivedlanguageandform,andatthesametime?what doubt couldtherebeintheworldofthis drama??atthesametime hasperceivedbreath,thatis,directionand fate.Thispersonis?asyouhaveguessed,sinceshe,whoissooftenquoted,andrightlyso,makesherappearancebeforeyoueveryyear?thispersonisLucile.Thatwhichintervenedduringthe conversationrelentlesslypresseson.Itarrives withusatthePlace delaR?volution,"thecartsaredrivenupandstop."Thosewhomadethe ridearethere,Danton,Camille,theothers.Even heretheyarenotatalossforwords,wordsrichinartistry,whichareeffectivelydisposed,andhereB?chnerisoftenabletorelyondirectquotations.Thereistalk ofgoing-to-ourdeaths-together,Fabreevenwantstobeabletodie"twice over."Everyoneisintopform.Onlyacoupleofvoices,"afew"?nameless?"voices" observethatthey'veseenitall beforeandfinditratherboring.30
 
Andhere,astheendapproaches,inthelongdrawn-outmoments,Camille?no,nothe,nothehimself,butmerelyonewhorodealong?thisCamilleisdyingatheatrical?oneisalmosttemptedtosayiambic?death,whichonlytwosceneslater,onthebasisofadictumsoforeign,yetsoappropriate,tohim,werecognizeashisowndeath. Aspathosand bathos surroundCamilleandconfirmthetriumphof"puppet"and"wire,"Lucileappears,theonewho isblindtoart,thissameLucile,for whomlanguageissomething personal,somethingperceptible.Sheappearsonceagain,with hersudden"Longlivetheking!"Afterallthe wordsspokenontheplatform(the scaffold)?whatastatement!Itisacounterstatement,astatementthatseversthe"wire,"that refusestobow beforethe"loiterersandparadehorsesofhistory."It isanactoffreedom.It isastep.Tobesure,itsoundslikeanexpressionofallegiancetotheancienr?gime?andthatmightnotbeacoincidence,inviewofwhatIamventuringtosayabout thesubjectnow,today.Butthesewords?pleaseallowonewhoalsogrewupwiththewritingsofPeterKropotkinandGustav Landauerexpresslytoemphasizethepoint?thesewordsarenotacelebration of themonarchyandapastwhichshouldbepreserved.Theyare atributetothemajestyof theabsurd,which bearswitnesstomankind'shereandnow.That,ladiesandgentlemen,hasnouniversally recognizedname,butitis,Ibelieve...literature.
"Alas,art."Asyousee,Iremainentangledinthesewords of
Camille.Iamwellawarethatit ispossibletoreadthesewordsinvariousways,onecaninsertdifferentaccents:the acuteof thepresent,thegravisof thehistorical(includingtheliteraryhistorical),thecircumflex?a markindicating length?ofthe eternal.Iinsert?Ihavenochoice?I inserttheacute.Art?"alas,art": itpossesses,aside from itsabilityto transform,thegiftofubiquity;it isalso foundin"Lenz",andhere?Imustemphasizethispoint?asin"Danton'sDeath,"itisan
episodeinnature.
"Attable Lenzrecapturedhisgoodmood;literaturewasthetopicofconversation and hewasinhiselement...""...Thefeelingthatthere islifeinthethingthathasbeencreated ismoreimportantthatthesetwofactors.Indeed,it isthe
sole criterioninmattersofart. ..."
Myguiltyconsciencewithregardtothegravisforcesmeto31

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