Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pearl Fichman, Paul Celan and reading Rilke

Recently, I discovered Pearl Fichman's unpublished memoir of her life in Czernowitz, entitled Before Memories Fade.


I found it an interesting and touching story and I commend it to anyone intrested in knowing what Paul Celan's world was like before and during World War II. Further, Ms Fichman sheds a great deal of light on what happened to Celan's family and the members of their community when the Germans arrived.

There is also a charming vignette, describing Jewish teenagers on an outing, listening to Celan, then Paul Antschel, reading Rilke. She writes: We sometimes went on long hikes, to the woods around Czernovitz, a day’s outing. Everyone carried a knapsack on the back, wore shoes with heavy soles and white, knee-high cotton socks. The girls wore a "dirndl" which consisted of a white blouse, a flowered skirt and a little apron, adorned with lace. It was the way the Tyrolians dressed, an old Austrian custom. Sometimes, we would sit in a meadow and one or another would read aloud. Paul Antschel, who later changed his name to Celan, loved to read to the group poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, in German, of course. Sometimes we’d read aloud H. Heine poems and sometimes we’d sing.

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