Paul Celan’s Encounters with Surrealism:
Trauma, Translation and Shared Poetic Space

(Oxford: Legenda, 2010)

Book coverPaul Celan (1920-1970), one of the most important and challenging poets in post-war Europe, was also a prolific and highly idiosyncratic translator. His post-Holocaust writing is inextricably linked to the specific experiences that have shaped contemporary European and American identity, and at the same time has its roots in literary, philosophical and scientific traditions that range across continents and centuries surrealism being a key example. Celan’s early works emerge from a fruitful period for surrealism, and they bear the marks of that style, not least because of the deep affinity he felt with the need to extend the boundaries of expression. In this comparative and intertextual study, Charlotte Ryland shows that this interaction continued throughout Celans lifetime, largely through translation of French surrealist poems, and that Celan’s great oeuvre can thus be understood fully only in the light of its interaction with surrealist texts and artworks, which finally gives rise to a wholly new poetics of translation.


A stimulating development in Celan scholarship. It heralds the arrival of a significant new contributor to UK studies of European poetry and cultural history.’’ — Ruth J. Owen, Modern Language Review 106.3, 2011, 923-24

What emerges from Ryland’s excellent book is more than just another answer to the question of literary influence. Rather, Ryland demonstrates through her extremely close reading of Celan’s translations of surrealist poems how Celan’s own poetic concerns shaped and transformed those poems… A valuable addition not only to the literature on Celan and surrealism but on Celan’s poetics of communication.’’ — Helmut Schmitz, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 10.3, 2011, 439-41

In this important book, which will be of interest to teachers and scholars of Paul Celan, Surrealism, and poetics, Charlotte Ryland… makes a compelling case that Celan’s engagement with Surrealism played a key and lasting role in the formation of his thought.’’ — Susan H. Gillespie, German Quarterly 85.1, Winter 2012, 98-99

A fascinating study of the position of Celan’s poetry in relation to his lived and textual reality.’’ — Catriona Firth and Sara Jones, The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies 72 (survey year 2010), 2012, 452

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