C is for...Celan and Calvino

Happy Thursday, fellow A-Zers, and welcome to the letter C.  Today is all about:  Paul Celan and Italo Calvino.

Paul Celan (1920-1970)
A Romanian poet and translator, Paul Celan is best known for his Holocaust writing, especially "Todesfuge," and his belief that writing in the German language was the only way to effectively address the atrocities suffered during the war.  Both of Celan's parents died in labor camps and he was imprisoned from 1942 to 1944 when the Russian army evacuated all Romanian camps.  Celan suffered extreme guilt in regards to his parents' deaths and used his writing as a way to convey these feelings.  He would eventually flee Eastern Europe, settling in Paris where he published his first collection of poetry, Der Sand aus den Urnen (The Sand from the Urns), in 1948.  At the time, many found his poetry too harsh sounding, but Celan eventually became known as the Holocaust writer.  He committed suicide jumping in to the Seine River.  Celan's work was first introduced to me during my undergraduate years and it made such an impression that I wrote my Master's thesis on his work and relationship with Nelly Sachs, a fellow poet and Nobel winner.

*Recommendation:  The Sand from the Urns...specifically "Todesfuge," Gespraech im Gebirg (Dialogue in the Mountains) a prose piece, and Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew by John Felstiner for a great biography

Italo Calvino (1923-1985)
Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist, short story writer, and novelist who was the most translated Italian writer at the time of his death.  Major themes that weave through his work include political doubt, personal discovery, and fables.  His first novel, Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno (The Path to the Spiders' Nest) was published in 1947.  He has also been considered the Italian version of the brothers Grimm, based on his Italian Folktales collection.  Calvino was also an active member of the group Oulipo, a group of mainly French writers and mathematicians who ran a literature workshop based on the principle of writing as a formula.  They created and practiced several writing techniques.

*Recommendations:  The Baron in the Trees and If on a winter's night a traveler

Who are some of your favorite "C" writers?


  1. Interesting topic for the letter C. We've checked out some holocaust memorials but I hadn't thought to read any literature written by those who lived through it. I'll have to check out some of Celan's work!

    1. Excellent! There will be some additional Holocaust writers later on in the challenge as well. Thanks so much for stopping by!


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