The Meridian

Speedl Buchner
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the occasion of receiving the Georg Prize, Darmstadt, 22 October 1960

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Art, you will remember, is a puppet-like, iambic, five-footed thing without - and this last characteristic has its mythological validation in Pygmalion and his statue - without offspring, In this form, it is the subject of a conversation in Danton '5 Death which takes place in a room, not yet in the Conciergerie, a conversation which, we feel, could go on forever if there were no snags. There are snags, ATt comes up again. It comes up in another work of Georg Buchner's, in vVoyzcck, among other, nameless people in a yet more 'ashen light before the storm' if I may use the phrase Moritz Heimann intended for Denton's Death. Here, in very different times, art comes presented by a carnival barker and has no longer, as in that conversation, anything to do with 'glowing', 37

nothing but cardboard and springs. longlived. And here where it all comes to an end. find they 'have heard it before. . Camille. as we can see. This time. Only a few voices. it is boring'. Danton. who perceives language as a physical shape and also who could doubt it within Buchner's work . to admire what we see: 'Nothing but art and mechanics. 'radiant' creation.no. It is the same art: art as we already know it. ladies and gentlemen. And a man who claims to be 'the third and perhaps strangest of the two' invites us. there is often somebody who does not really listen. Valerio is only another name for the barker. that is. not the Camille. 'two persons of the two sexes' are introduced: 'two world-famous automatons have arrived'. where all around Camille pathos and =v= 39 . in Leona and Lena. 'with a rattling voice'.I am talking of Lucile. A problem which allows a mortal.Paul Celan 'roaring'. art comes III the shape of a monkey. and then does not know what it was about. But just before that moment. rather. It . 'forbidden'. Danton. . We recognize it by its 'coat and trousers'. not by accident quoted so frequently .breath. Time and lighting a~e ~nreco. It is easy to talk about art.unnamed . I am tempted to say iambic death which we only two scenes later come to feel as his own. and a man whom we can only understand through his death. artful. but is put next to the 'creature as God made it' and the 'nothing' this creature is 'wearing'. through another person's words. resonant words. 'sees him speaking'. is also a problem and. looks . everybody rises to the occasion. listens. But who hears the speaker.you have long guessed it as she comes to you year after year. eternal. in those long last moments when Camille . a fellow prisoner . But it is art all right.' They are all there. direction and destiny.art . Fabre would even like to die 'twice'. yet kin . to join word to word to word.here where it all to its end. More precisely: somebody who hears.comes to us in yet a third play of Buchner's.'voices'. not his. with all its attributes and future additions. 38 Speeches But when there is talk of art. Wordsin places Buchner need only quote . 'some' . They do not lack words. and the rest. tough.when this other Camille dies a theatrical. but obviously of its Own sort. ' Art appears here in larger company than before. one that is variable. even here.about ?oing to their death together. let LIS sa y. I am talking . and all clocks and calendars' are soon to be 'broken' or. Art.gl1lzable: we are 'fleeing towards paradise . Camille. The snags which halt the conversation in Danton's Death are brutal. They take us to the Place de la Revolution: 'the carts drive up and stop. and they get them out.

t 's Deat1-l. . l" that 1 cannot get away turbs my conscience agam. irr Iicerarv history_We hei . d. 'h ther two. I glve it an It is a word against the grain.mner. has no definitive that this is . it has if only for a moment. eminal 'Elarglssez. '. po 1ItIC" find them.. l'art ' This passage . It is an act of freedom. LT. talked literature.. Ladies and gentlemen. ce tlaht ws and thereby disB It It a lso so. has the oh. which does not bow to the 'bystanders and old warhorses of history'. dare say about it. who grew up On the writings of Peter Kropotkin and Gustav Landauer. I gIve It acute accent. au to be end the historical Lenz..kd ly two sentences. to any yesterday worth preserving.Ofl f the Lenz . the word which cuts the 'string'. True. re w: " r D ' a work was . only as an 'Is .' n It leads us rom thetics fmds expressto ' . y. D' t "5 Deat ' nere. It is homage to the majesty of the absurd bespeaks the presence of human beings.. back . k and here we WI '·' . mind you) . But it is not.. today. Lucile is suddenly there with her 'Long jive the king!' After all those words on the platform guillotine. it anncipates . 11 I' tiona t us. to Theatre. The feeling that there IS I e )J1 the ''. . sation 1I1 OIl. 'Over they Lenz recovere d his spirits: . I know we can read it in different ways.. the grave accent of history (literary history included).on me stress t11 . ' I have no other c h Olce. . 'I was in his element. Allow me. thor of Notes on the c 1 fragment gentlemen. Ilk for the social and Here we must . atllr opens Vistas. . 11portance In tion to t err II h with the converhi assage roget er must re. as 111 atl. It is a step. " ' Lenz but..what a word! (the Speeches . I pIC e on ve accent bid s me draw your attenI I about t re gra.Pew! Ceia« sententiousness confirm the triumph of 'puppet' and 'string'. a only criterion in matters of art. was more important than t o~e. Reinhold Lenz. h Mercier s s .. this is perhaps no accident . '. I 1 '1 did not fail to mencalmed my consci~n. I am stuck on this word of 'Oh. . we can give it a variety of accents: the acute of the present. ladies and but I believe You see which episode. it sounds and in the context of what I now. let .1 roots of Buchner s war . name.' We find It agam 111 -..a d t 11S P . poetry. 40 41 .00· '11 Hauptmann. Art l' _ beside being changeable. . This. to insist: this is not homage to any monarch y. . Buchner's aes. here Lucile who is blind against art Lucile for whom language is tangible and like a person. . art!' Camille's.it sounds at first like allegiance to the 'ancien regime'. art.. and. gift of ublqu~ty. . the circumflex (marking length) of eternity. My bad conscience . h. D. . N' alisrn and Ger art .

by the way. take art for granted. hardly noticeable play of expressions on his face'. art has its uncanny side.Paul Celan frol11 something which seems connected with art. not call art into question. for absolutely given? Should we. but Buchner's. Buchner. so very young. Even the finest. Please note. Sometimes one would like to be a Medusa's head to turn such a group to stone and gather the people around it.. I am looking for it here.perhaps because of that . Speeches but uncanny . very far back.. He contrasts it with what is natural for the creature and follows up with his unforgettable lines about the 'life of the least of beil:gs'. and the other girJ so careful and attentive. And it must be in the air . Ladies and gentlemen. the 'subtle. takes us far.now you are forewarned. I saw two girls sitting On a rock. Lenz. art') only contemptuous words for 'idealism' and its 'wooden puppets'. a question among others.the air we have to breathe . perhaps only half conscious. And he illustrates this view of art with a scene he has witnessed: As I was walking in the valJey yesterday. too. if I took my question about. and a pale. and the black dress. !his means going beyond what is human. The golden hair hanging down. not: 1 would. serious face. and frorn this direction? A challenge perhaps muted. ladies and gentlemen: 'One would like to be a Medusa's head' to .that I so stubbornly insist on it today. has ('oh.. but for all that . if! took It of my own though perhaps not freeWIll to Buchner.no less essentially radical? A challenge to which all poetry must return if it wants to question further? In other words (and leaving out some of the steps): may we. One was putting up her hair. This uncanny. art. This is not the historical Lenz speaking. 43 42 .the realm where the monkey. in Lens: . as in his other works. But you see: we cannot ignore the 'rattling' voice Valerio gets whenever art is mentioned. seem to be at home. Now I must ask. Here we hear Buchner's own voice: here. most intimate paintings of the old German masters can hardly give you an idea of the scene. seize the natural as the natural by means of art! One would like to. Buchner's voice leads me to suppose. and the other helped. stepping into a realm which is turned toward the human. the poet of the creature. art and poetry. it was in order to find his way of asking it. I have placed my acute accent. to put it concretely. the automatons and with them . the 'tremors and hints'. like many of our contemporaries. oh. that is. does Buchner.. I cannot hide from you any more than from myself that.

. Poetry rushes ahead. on a certain road. Rosan~w. I am looking for his shape: for the sake of the place of poetry. to Medusa's bead and the automaton! and no more. too. reached beyond my topic. in 1909. Shall we look at the historical Lenz in order to find out what direction this life had? 'His existence was a necessary burden for him. Perhaps I am only speculating perhaps poetry. We know how he lives 011. of course. the artist: 'He had forgotten all about himself. like art. the artist. I will now leave the man who has forgotten about himself.. for the sake of the step. I think. also the direction of the Lenx fragment. I know.. he himself.' we read in a work on Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz published in Leipzig.M. from the pen of a Moscow professor. direction. die aussi bdile nos etapes. A nobleman paid for his funeral.Paul Celan should we think to the end? Mallarrne. Thus he lived on .forgets about himself. His grave has remained unknown. I am only pushing the question farther in the same direction which is. Biichner's Lel1Z has remained a fragment.' I think of Lucile when I read this. Let me return to Buchner's Lenz. to the (episodic) conversation 'over dinner' during which Lenz 'recovered his spirits'. 'now smiling. N. But poetry. 111 Buchner's work. 1792. can be ahead. And when the conversation is over Buchner says of him. I know there are other. ladies and gentlemen. Art makes for distance from the L Art requires that we travel a certain space in a certain direction. In the night from the 23rd to the 24th of May. moves with the oblivious self into the uncanny and strange to free itself Though where? in which place? how? as what? This would 44 . for the sake of liberation. Lenz was found dead in a street in Moscow.I am still with Lens: . ' 45 I a~ not looking for a way out. of the man who thinks about questions of art. now serious'. must go the way of art? Here this would actually mean the road. for instance. and Lucile perceives language as shape. poetry. no less But I I have jumped ahead. though not far enough. like Lucile. I am looking for Lenz himself. Lenz talked for a long time. ' Here the tale breaks off. 'Death. tries to see the figure in his direction. who thinks about art. 1 am looking for the same thing here. I read: He. 'death was not slow to deliver him.. as a person. shorter routes. but also of Lenz. through mean Speeches art is the distance poetry must cover. on toward what. breath. I believe that I have met poetry in the figure of Lucile. The man whose eyes and mind are occupied with art . And poetry? Poetry which. La poesie.

all seem to lie in the same direction it is perhaps this turn.. has b~en bestowed on poetry by strangeness and distance (perhaps of its own making) and for the sake of an encounter 46 47 . along with the I. in this manner. which can sort out the strange from the strange? It is perhaps here. some other thing is also set free? Perhaps after this. ladies and a man who walks on his head sees the as an abyss. it is very common today to complain of the 'obscurity' of poetry. only.Paul Celan Thus he had lived on. Buchner's figure. it sometimes bothered could not walk On his head.. the poem can be itself . a turning of our breath. only. Can we perhaps now place where the person as.that is. sky below. But there two kinds Speeches may be. this Atemwende. Allow me to guote. perhaps poetry goes its way . I believe. It takes his .. ' A man gentlemen. the person whom we encountered on the first page of the story: the Lenz who 'on the 20th of January was walking through the mountains'. estranged and freed here.. His 'Long live the king' is no longer a word. the abyss and the automaton. including the ways of art. time and again? Perhaps. Poetry is perhaps this: an Atemwende.he as an 'I'.estranged this step? locate the strangeness.and ourbreath and words away. the abyss and Medusa's head. It is a terrifying silence. Ladies and gentlemen. an .the way of art . in this one brief moment. the was able to set himself free I? Can we locate this place. in one and the same direction. Lenz . Perhaps we can say that every poem is marked by its own '20th of January'? Perhaps the newness of poems written today is that they try most plainly to be mindful of this kind of date? But do we not all write from and toward some such date? What else could we claim as our origin? ' .' This is Lenz. his 'Long Jive the king'..has gone a step farther than Lucile. he not the artist thinking a bout art . that Medusa's head shrivels and the automatons run down? Perhaps. it sometimes bothered him that he could not walk on his head. Who knows. can in this now art-less.a phrase of Pascal's which I read in Leo Shestov: 'Ne nous reprochez pas le manque de clarte puisgue nous en faisons profession. a bit abruptly but do we not have a sudden opening here? . him that he who walks on his head. This is. of strangeness next to each other. if it is not congenital. his step.for the sake of just such a turn? And since the strange. Buchner . He: the real Lenz.. art-free manner go other ways.' This obscurity. ' .

if you will permit me yet another extreme formulation. Does this very fact not place the poem already here. In other words: language actualized. toward the poem. it speaks only on its own. the faster flow of syntax or a more awakened sense of ellipsis.Paul c-u« Speeches The poem holds its ground. but it speaks. 48 .and a not so very distant. remains as aware of the limits drawn by language as of the possibilities it opens. For the poem. But I think .not just verbally . I can no longer use this word here . Its author stays with it. everything and everybody IS a figure of this other toward which it is heading. In order to endure. set free under the sign of a radical individuation which. needs an opposite. has gained yet more speed. to speak also on behalf of the strange . Perhaps. their own physical nature. however. It goes toward it. the poem. This 'who knows' which I have reached is all ] can add here.that the poem has always hoped. This 'still-here' of the poem can only be found in the work of poets who do not forget that they speak from an angle of reflection which is their own existence. it constantly calls and pulls itself back from an 'already-no-more' into a 'still-here'.will last. needs this other. a quite close 'other' conceivable.no. perhaps. turned toward it. but responding and . let us say. Nobody can tell how long the pause for breath . True. shows . perhaps of an altogether other. today. perhaps an encounter is conceivable between this 'altogether other' . its very own behalf. The poem takes such thoughts for its home and hope .hope and thought . Not language as such. none of which we should underrate the poem clearly shows :1 strong tendency towards silence. but heads straight for the 'otherness' which it considers it can reach and be free. bespeaks it. the poem today. the poem holds its ground on its own margin. essentially. The poem knows this. It is mindful of its dates. 'Speed'. This 'still-here' can only mean speaking. which is perhaps vacant and at the same time turned like Lucile. which has always been 'outside'. who knows. I am led to speculate. in the encounter. a presence in the present. for this very reason. in the mystery oj encounter? The poem intends another.'corresponding' to something.and this has only indirectly to do with the difficulties of vocabulary.and this will hardly surprise you . at its inception. 49 But the poem speaks. to the old hopes. again and again. This shows the poem yet more clearly as one person's language become shape and. It is lonely and en route.I am using a familiar auxiliary .a word for living creatures. It is true. The poem is lonely.on behalf of the other.

can gather it into a 'you' around the naming and speaking I.under what conditions _ the poem of a person who still perceives. there is this inducta ble question. fre~ spaces . Only the space of this conversation can establish what is addressed'. again and again. Elargissez l'art! This problem confronts us with its old and new uncanniness. But in the light of what is still to be searched for: in a u-topian light. structure.no.PaHI Celan The attention which the poem pays to all that it encounters. what can be perceived. come about by dint of being named and addressed brings its otherness into the present.we have ventured far out. But in every real poem. And the human being? The physical creature? In this light. with these words about the poem. no. outline.all this is not. Hence the poem is the place where all tropes and metaphors want to be led ad absurdum. still turns towards phenomena. rather. and only here. 'Attention'. Whenever we speak with things in this way we also dwell on the question of their where-from and where-to. 51 . achieved by an eye competing (or concurring) with ever mare precise instruments.and the poem has only this one. Ladies and gentlemen. What questions! What claims! It is time to retrace our steps. the otherness gives voice to what is most its Own: its time. momentary present . unique. but. what am. 50 Speeches The poem? The poem with its images and tropes? Ladies and gentlemen. an 'open' question 'without resolution' a question which points towards open. And topological research? Certainly. colour. I think.even in this immediacy and nearness. I took it to Buchner. this exorbitant claim. in this direction. empty. The poem becomes . only now. I have come to the endI have come back to the beginning. it certainly does not. by a kind of concentration mindful of all our dates. addressing and questioning them. its more acute sense of detail. Even in the here all. The poem also searches for this place. I actually talking about when I speak from this position. about the poem? I am talking about a poem which does not exist! The absolute poem . but also of the 'tremors and hints' .d now of the poem . 'attention is the natural prayer of the soul'. even the least ambitious.often desperate conversation. cannot exist. Then what are images? What has been. if you allow me a quote from Malebranche via Walter Benjamin's essay on Kafka. But this 'you'. The poem becomes conversation .

I had . like Lucile's. for projecting ourselves into the search for ourselves . was visible only in the figure of Lucile.. r wanted to counter to contradict. among how many others.. Leonce and Lena.. we came close to a free. . even today. I have taken this route. And once. the paths on which language becomes voice. must be careful.Paul cas« Speeches Voices from the path through Come to tiS on your hands. open space and. am corning. the automaton). [ even had an answer ready. finally. outlines for existence perhaps. detours from you to you? But they are. to ask once more. nettles: and think I found it in his work. Perhaps also while I was trying to head for that inhabitable distance which. I must be careful not to misread. since I have come back to the beginning. allow me. I had written from a '20th of January'. Ladies and gentlemen. with a word against the gram. Twice. finally.art lives on. the same question. It has been a circle. They are encounters. with the last two words of this work. Ladies and gentlemen. by dint of attention to things and beings. paths from a voice to a listening You. On the contrary. briefly and from a different direction. And set yourself free. the uncanny strangeness which is so hard to differentiate and perhaps is only one after a11.. Enlarge art? No. a turning of breath. there seemed to occur an /uemu/ende. I commemorated a missed encounter in the Engadine valley by putting a little story on paper where I had a man 'like Lenz. with Lucile's 'Long live the king' and when the sky opened as an abyss under Lenz.. Ladies and gentlemen.. Alone with your lamp. And here. Is it on such paths that poems take us when we think of them? And are these paths only detours. along with my acute accent. natural paths.' walk through the mountains. the mechanism. from my '20th ofJanuary'. take art with you into your innermost narrowness . as Karl Emil Franzos did (my rediscovered fellow Cowltryl1wl1 Karl Emil Fl'anzos) editor of that 'First Critical and Complete Edition of Georg BUchner's Works 53 . encountered myself. Only your hand to read. with you. I am coming to the end. close to utopia.Art (this includes Medusa's head. Both times. A kind of homecoming. several years ago I wrote a little quatrain: 52 And a year ago. Poetry. art. to the end of . ladies and gentlemen: what an eternalization of nothing but mortality. and in vain.

I find the connective which. for something beyond itself. I must admit. but rather rabbit's ears. . since I am again at my po. because nervous. . or goose feet.. leads to encounters. 55 .a child's map. None of these places can be found. and . Jet me now undertake a bit of topological research. terrestrial. I am also..I must be careful not to misread das Co 1111'1'1 ode. With you and Georg Buchner and the State of Hesse.Paul Celan and Posthumous Writings' which was published eighty-one years ago by Sauerlander in Frankfurt am Main . Ladies and gentlemen. like the poem. as 'the coming thing'. beyond words? From this point of'comfort'. this road of the impossible. They do not exist. searching for my own place of ongm. something that listens. that is.in. via both poles. a meridian.t of departure. in the shape of a circle which. but also in the light of utopia. I find something which consoles me a bit for having walked this impossible road in your presence. But I know where they ought to exist. 54 Speeches I find something as immaterial as language. I am looking for all this with my imprecise. yet earthly. And yet: is Leonce and Lena not full of words which seem to smile through invisible quotation marks. I find something else. especially now. I shall search for the region from which hail Reinhold Lenz and Karl Emil Franzos whom [ have met on my way here and in BUchner's work. rejoins itself and on the way serenely crosses even the tropics: I find . finger on a map . I believe] have just touched it again. not without fear. which we should perhaps not call Giinse[usschen. 'the comfort' we now need.

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