Writing an image/The image of writing: Paul Celan’s Todesfuge in the artworks of Anselm Kiefer

Av Elsbeth Dekker

Paul Celan

dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein ashenes Haar Sulamith

The closing lines of Paul Celan’s Todesfuge are probably the most poignant and distressing ever written: a German and a Jewish ideal that mingle and intertwine, but remain irreconcilable. Through various cultural and historical signs Todesfuge expresses the horrors of the Holocaust and the disrupted world to which the poem bears witness. Ever since the first publication the poem has had an enormous impact on its readers; it has been criticized as much as admired and associated with art about the Holocaust. Not least, it found resonance in the paintings of the German artist Anselm Kiefer. Both Paul Celan’s Todesfuge and Anselm Kiefer’s paintings are extraordinary examples of attempts to represent the atrocities and trauma of the Holocaust – the “un-representable” – which remain relevant topics for artists and writers today.

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