To the poetry of Celan and to a reading of kitsch

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Paul Celan’s poems are now available from Suhrkamp in a new one-volume and annotated complete edition. Dietmar Dath took this occasion for a sighting and refers to the lyricism of Celan on the concept of kitsch, which resonates in one or the other line of his texts – and one can argue about this diagnosis with justification and right, because the same could be for some time lost concept of pathos here insert. But if you take a closer look at Derrida’s thesis, take it and think it through, it seems aesthetically interesting to me. Dath writes in the FAZ :

“Celan has written not only art but also kitsch. Not always, not often, but inevitably: Kitsch here was collateral damage of the impossibility to hit the desired high tone, which is necessary to save the magical thinking of the past in the poetic play of modern times, if that is to happen in one language which one must solve first from their everyday life, because in this what should distinguish the modern era from the past, the reason, was disgraced as in no other: in this language, crimes have been justified, ordered, coordinated, the every thought of History of reason, of progress in the consciousness of freedom, the finding of truth and art education in their bloody dirt.

Kitsch arises in the arts whenever a work of art has a fundamental aesthetic problem, but can not or will not solve it. Kitsch is the cream that people throw into the food that can not cook, but believe they could cheat the taste over it with the help of cream. Celan’s kitsch happens to him, where he is afraid the words could burn him to tell the greatest imaginable horror. This makes Celan’s kitsch a new, not a traditional one. Because in the traditional kitsch mood is made or conjured a pathetic orthodoxy, there is in this spell of artistic stupidity sentimental, patriotic, religious kitsch and so on. They all have an affect on art that is meant to distract from poverty, an unresolved relationship between matter, subject and form. For Celan, kitsch is neither humor nor sentiment, but a torment that the lyricist can not spare because he is too clever to believe what modernism had believed before Hitler: that the Hermetic and the esoteric in itself is an infallible assurance that art is against kitsch. “

Dath’s Celan critique of kitsch is interesting because it provides an expanded and aesthetically relevant definition of a term that is often used in late modern art, especially since the 1980s, in a pejorative or affirmative way and with an ironic wink which in turn means defusing kitsch as a provocative power as soon as such ‘subversion’ becomes institutionalized. For the higher consecrations, which in the act of affirmation or irony are given to kitsch (also as a camp), in the end only show the measure of the ordinary in kitsch. Any innovation is lost as soon as it is a well-rehearsed system. Incidentally, Adorno’s strangely lenient definition of kitsch – only incidentally – can be found in the Minima Moralia :

“In the end, the outrage at the kitsch is the rage that he bashes shamelessly in the happiness of imitation, which has now been overtaken by taboo, while the power of the works of art is still secretly fed by imitation.”

402px-Celan_passphoto_1938 In contrast, the explanation that Darth provides with regard to Celan. At the same time – and Dath ‘s critique is dialectical – this conceptual problematization is aimed at a fundamental aesthetic problem, namely that which terminates under the rubric “Writing after Auschwitz” – we also have here Adorno‘ s (dialectic) dictum on poetry in Auschwitz impossible – the complex reflections, which are in this sentence, I do not want to thematize here, they give a very own text over the question of the experience of suffering and their representation. Dath fixes this question of aesthetic form on the ever-sensitive concept of kitsch. This is interesting inasmuch as the term “kitsch” refers to a crisis phenomenon that also sediments in the compositional attitude of the artist, in his struggle for a successful word.

At the same time, this touches on the central question of how art can act or write about horror and horror, without either defusing it in its aesthetic form or aestheticizing it in kitsch and in the art or merely trivializing it. Kitsch and arts and crafts are often close to each other, some of Rilke’s lines, hand-crafted, but sometimes too beautiful to even grasp the sombre gullet of modernity, and some of the works of Jeff Koons , For the time after the horror of Auschwitz and Hiroshima Celan delivered the partly hermetic, partly open-to-read lyric text.

Every angel is terrible – in the Duino Elegies Rilke brought this experience between the exaltation of existence, lyrical meditation on the conditions of such humanity, black metaphysics, no fear of heights, and the mute existence of things wonderful in the poem. Pathos but no kitsch. Speech, poetry, writing on the border of the word – on which, of course, the lyric usually moves to say it in a different mode than the merely discursive and above all: to sing. Celan’s lyrics answer that elegy. Often in ambiguous pictures. Consider his poem Cello Use . It can be read as the singable or playable remnant where no more language can reach, because expression transforms into pure sound and lyric returns to the lyre, the play of sounds – not necessarily in the sense of the beautiful, the fast -to-beautiful. But one can take this cello as well as the accompanying music, which plays when the camp commander feels like mind and German key.

In this dialectical-poetic sense, Dath’s reflections on Celan seem interesting to me, opening a new, different dimension to Celan’s work, and to the aesthetic category of kitsch in general.


Source: Wikipedia, from:



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