(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Snow Part represents Celan’s last work and shows his most difficult struggles with language and silence. Some of these poems were not authorized by their writer for publication, but Celan’s son allowed them to be published. This collection is for those who wrestle with philosophical and psychological questions surrounding the Holocaust. These are Celan’s last words on the subject, and their knotted, gnarled syntax, their effaced narrators, and their ambiguities make them difficult to enter but rewarding of study. They are shadowed by Celan’s suicide, which took place shortly after the last poems were written, but they should not be read exclusively in the light of his death, as some of them show signs of hope.

The English translation by Ian Fairley is mostly comprised of the poems included in the poetry collection Schneepart, which Celan wrote around the time of his 1967 breakdown. The poems show the breakdown, the falling away, of any constructed coherence the poet had brought to or read into his shattered world. Most of the poems are short, terse, and dense. A few poems express a kind of distant optimism—a shaky faith that sometime, somehow, all will be well. In addition to the poems in Schneepart, Fairley also has translated and included some previously uncollected and unpublished poems as part of this collection.

The most extensive poem here and perhaps the most optimistic is “Was Naht” (“What...

(The entire section is 470 words.)