Celan, Büchner, and the Terrible Voice of the Meridian
The chapter focuses on the title Celan gave to his 1960 speech delivered on the occasion of his reception of the Büchner Prize for Literature. While critics tend to understand the title word “meridian” exclusively in spatial terms, the chapter argues that it should be understood temporally as the moment when the sun stands directly overhead at noon, dividing the day into a.m. and p.m. This moment recurs at critical points in Büchner’s plays and prose works and it is Celan’s achievement to have recognized its pivotal— and highly contradictory— significance. What is gathered together at this privileged point in time are three competing ways of viewing the meridian: as a moment of absolute sovereignty, as a point of stasis and traumatic fixation, and as the site of a possible opening toward what is yet to come. It is through his encounter with this critical moment in Büchner that Celan articulates his own poetic practice, his way not just of incorporating readings of other writers into his own work but of leaving his poems open in their turn to the solicitations of others. His notion of poetry as “desperate conversation” should thus be understood in terms of this intertextual relationship.
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