Tag Archives: Paul Celan

Kiril Vasilev: Bann


Ausscheidungen von küchenschaben
auf dem weissen einband des buchs
mit gedichten von Paul Celan

das nichts getrennt durch punkte
und wieder verbunden durch kommata
vor den worten und danach

ich stellte das buch wieder hinter den schrank
nun lasst uns darüber streiten ob die erlösung
unsere stimmen überdauern wird



Изпражнения на хлебарки
върху бялата корица на книга
със стихове на Паул Целан

нищото разделено с точки
и свързано отново със запетайки
преди думите и след тях

върнах книгата зад шкафа
нека  спорът за спасението
да надживее гласовете ни

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

Kiril Vasilev: Provintsii, Small Stations Press, London Sofia 2015 

© Kiril Vasilev and Small Stations Press, 2015.
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Par Avion

Some time ago I introduced the Bulgarian poet Vladislav Hristov here with some examples of his poetic craft. As regular readers of this blog will know already, I take a particular interest in Bulgarian literature and am frequently reviewing books by Bulgarian authors who deserve it to be read also outside their country. In the field of poetry it seems that Bulgaria has an abundance of talents, but the same goes also for the short prose. And with Georgi Gospodinov Bulgaria has now a writer that “plays in the Premier League” of World Literature – when this sporty metaphor is allowed in this context.

Today I want to share a few poems by another poet of the younger generation in Bulgaria: Emanuil A. Vidinski. Like Vladislav Hristov, Vidinski is not only creative as a poet. He writes also prose, has published a novel and is the translator of Gottfried Benn and Paul Celan in Bulgarian language. Together with fellow poets Peter Tchouhov and Ivan Hristov, he founded the band Gologan. Recently he founded another band, Par Avion, together with his colleague Peter Tchouchov.

The samples of his poetry are from the slender booklet Par Avion (in Bulgarian language) and give a good idea about his major topics. I let them speak for themselves:



doesn’t cry in public
doesn’t complain
doesn’t sulk at the table
doesn’t talk about herself
doesn’t faint and
doesn’t call 911
doesn’t go to a psychologist
doesn’t cut her veins
doesn’t dramatize herself
doesn’t stop working
doesn’t sink into alcohol
doesn’t give in to desperation
doesn’t fake happiness
doesn’t force laughter
doesn’t keep silent on purpose
doesn’t feel aggression
doesn’t feel pity
doesn’t give up smoking
doesn’t change herself
doesn’t take a vacation
doesn’t hitchhike
doesn’t bear an artificial loneliness
doesn’t surround herself with people
doesn’t start writing poems
doesn’t listen to music differently
doesn’t keep a diary
doesn’t stop reading
doesn’t cease making love
doesn’t lose pleasure
doesn’t give up enjoyment
doesn’t miss out on joy
doesn’t bar her laughter
doesn’t long to abscond
doesn’t run away
doesn’t speak of herself
doesn’t sulk at the table
doesn’t complain

just sometimes
feels an overwhelming desire
to disappear into her palms

(translated by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer)

Малка смърт
не мога да си спомня мириса ти
просто не мога
Little death
can’t  remember your scent
I just can’t
винаги когато цъфнат липите
си припомнят детството
до охлузенотo ти коляно
тam прочете
тam потече
и оттогава не спря да вали
whenever the linden trees blossom
I recall childhood
till your injured knee
there I read
there I flow
and since then it has not stopped to rain
The following poem sums up in a few lines the collective feeling of probably many people in South-Eastern Europe:
са балконът на Европа
На него понякога излизат
да се порадват малко
на гледката
преди отново да влязат
в подредените си стаи
The Balkans
are the balcony of Europe
Sometimes step on it
the Europeans
to take for a little while pleasure
in the view
before re-entering
their orderly rooms

(all other translations by Thomas Hübner)

 The translation “NO.” is taken from the anthology The Season of Delicate Hunger that collects 197 poems by 32 contemporary Bulgarian authors. When you want to have an overview about the contemporary poetry in Bulgaria, then this is the book for you.



Emanuil A. Vidinski: Par Avion, Janet45, Plovdiv 2011

The Season of Delicate Hunger, ed. Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, Accents Publishing, Lexington 2014

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Belated Echo

Josef Burg, born 1912 in Wyschnyzja, a small town in the Bukovina, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now belonging to the Ukraine, reached an almost biblical age. He died 2009 at the age of 97 years in the nearby town of Tschernowzy (Czernowitz).

Czernowitz, his home for most of his life, once housed a vibrant German-speaking Jewish community. Czernowitz not only had one of the best universities in Austria-Hungary and an excellent German theater, it had also dozens of newspapers and literary journals. It was, according to the poet Paul Celan who was born there, a place where people and books lived. It is therefore not surprising that Czernowitz was also the home of important German poets like Celan himself, Rose Ausländer, Immanuel Weissglas, Alfred Gong, and several others.

Josef Burg was one of the last of this generation of authors. But contrary to the above mentioned poets, Burg wrote mainly prose – and he wrote exclusively in Yiddish, not German. Yiddish, the traditional language of Eastern European Jews is derived from Medieval German (Mittelhochdeutsch) but has absorbed many Hebrew, Slav, and recently English words. By the educated Western European but also by most Zionist Jews, Yiddish was considered as ‘jargon’, a ‘wrong’ German, a dialect of the uneducated and backward people from the ghettos of Eastern Europe. But this point of view doesn’t do justice to this language – it is rich, colorful, even juicy, and it has produced many eminent writers and an extremely interesting literature. Josef Burg was one of the last authors to write in this language.

In one of his short stories A loschn beazmoj (A language of its own), Burg is describing the surprising reactions of his environment towards Yiddish: as a student in Vienna just before the Anschluss in 1938, he is witnessing how a Jewish student from the East is earning verbal abuse and even open hatred from his Jewish colleagues from Vienna – just because he is addressing them in his native language (which for sure all of his colleagues at least understood).

A short time later the narrator is congratulated by his professor for his excellent German. When the professor asks the foreign student what his native language is, he answers: “Yiddish, Herr Professor!”. The professor, probably a conservative Austrian aristocrat reacts not like the student expects:

I remark that he wants to say something. Maybe the hackneyed “Yiddish is spoilt German”. But he looks at me vividly. Warmth and a certain hesitation are in his gaze. And he says something unexpected. Simple, pure and full of expression: “Yiddish, young friend, is a language of its own.”

(Ich bamerk, as er grejt sich epess sogn. Efscher doss ojssgedroschene “Jidisch is a fardorbn dajtsch!”. Nor er kukt af mir zudringlich. Sein blik is erwoss farzojgn un warem. Un er tut umgericht a sog. Poscher, rejn un saftik: – Jidisch, junger frajnt, is a loschn beazmoj!)

The stories in Josef Burg’s collection of stories A farschpertikter echo (A belated echo) are grouped in three thematic chapters. One is consisting of childhood memories from his poor shtetl and its lumberjacks and rafters. The second deals with the life of the survivors and their attempts to find back to some kind of normality, which for most of them is impossible (Burg for example was the only surviving family member – he lost 50 relatives in the holocaust). And the third is focusing on the time of the persecution.

All of these stories leave a strong impression on the reader. That is partly because of the backdrop of these stories: the genocide. But it is also because of the art of Josef Burg. He leaves everything superficial out and is concentrating on the essential: the fate of the people he is describing, their hopes and fears, their rare joys and frequent sorrows.

In jene teg (In those days) is a good example. On five pages only, Burg is describing the fate of a man he knew in Vienna in 1938. The crippled Galician Jew is like the narrator a regular guest in the Cafe Central, a popular meeting point of intellectuals, writers and artists. The man with the hunchback is one of these luftmentschn that are such a familiar view in many Yiddish stories: someone with an unidentifiable profession (this one seems to be a photographer and a poet, but it is doubtful how he can survive from this almost non-existing income), origin and future, living on the edge of destitution.

The friendly and very modest behavior of this Quasimodo make the narrator curious and he is finally befriending this man. But he is too shy and modest to recite his own poems, as much as the narrator insists. After the Anschluss and the introduction of the “racial” laws in Austria, the Cafe Central has closed its doors for the Jews and on a last occasion before the narrator leaves Austria (he is a foreigner and therefore lucky to find a way out of the mousetrap which Vienna has become for local Jews), he is meeting his friend a last time and his friend is finally giving him a notebook with his poems:

“You wanted my poems? Here you are…Maybe they prove to be useful for you…for sure not for me anymore.”

(“ir hot gewolt majne lider?…Ot hot ir sej…Efscher wet ir sej kenen ojssnuzn…Ich – schojn sicher nit.”)

Some years later, the narrator learns about the fate of his friend from another emigrant: the poet was hiding in a chest, but found while sleeping by the SS. They buried him alive. The manuscript with the poems is handed over to a Jewish publisher in Prague who is later also to become a victim of the Nazis. The notebook is lost without a trace.

“Maybe one day you will remember me!”

(“Efscher wet ir amol mich dermonen!”)

Josef Burg remembered him. And we need to be grateful for this work of a great writer.



Josef Burg: A фаршпэтиктэр эхо: дэрцейлунген, новелес, фарцейхенунген, Sovetskij pisatel, Moscow 1990

Josef Burg:  A farschpetikter echo / Ein verspätetes Echo, P. Kirchheim, München 1999

Translations from Yiddish to English in this blog by Thomas Hübner


© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.