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Jean Daive
Under the Dome:
Walks With Paul Celan

translated from the French by Rosmarie Waldrop
2009
Memoir, 136 pages, offset, smyth-sewn
ISBN 978-1-886224-97-1, paper $14
Out of Print

Paul Celan and Jean Daive translate each other, walk, talk. Tensions, silences and, discreetly, Celan’s crises and suicide. Autumn in Paris. Autumn of ideas. Incessant walks under the dome of chestnut leaves. Paris, the Luxembourg Garden, the Square of the Contrescarpe. And, finally, the question: who are we, and how do we read the unreadable world?

The book blurs the time of these encounters and walks (1965 -1970) with the present of the author writing, 20 years later, on a Mediterranean island.

Under the Dome is an intimate portrait of Celan in his last, increasingly dark years. It is also the encounter of two poets, each with his demons, for whom it is a matter of life and death to work language into a grid, a Sprachgitter, that could hold the world.

“A beautiful and haunting collage that mixes Daive’s lyric introspections with his recollections of a relationship that formed during Celan’s increasingly dark and erratic final years…. His meditative depictions of Celan’s suicide, Celan’s estrangement from his wife Gisele, and Daive’s own life after Celan’s death burn with a wounding yet imperative light, allowing us to at once see and see through.”

— Robert Glick, Review of Contemporarty Fiction (Spring 2010)

“A record of a friendship; an impressionistic memoir recalling conversations (both profound and inconsequential) and encounters…from which emerges a composite portrait of Paul Celan…. He also made wonderfully gnomic pronouncements: “Use the colon. It syncopates.”… Iterative, fragmentary and suffused with an atmosphere of Paris in the late afternoon, the book precisely evokes the insistence of memory.”

—Ian Pindar, TLS (March 12, 2010)

"I can't really think of a better introduction to Celan's poetry. And I can't think of a better introduction to the hauntedness of the man, the constant sense of loss that he endured…how this has left him permanently on-edge and raw-nerved in a world that too-constantly reminds him of the enormity of his losses. Literary criticism often approaches Celan's sufferings in terms of the debate with Adorno about whether there can be poetry after Auschwitz. Daive gives us a much less abstract, much more palpable sense of the damage that had been done to Celan. We don't get Celan as a chapter in the history of literary thought, here. Daive's gift to us is the presence of the man himself.”

—Robert Archambeau, samizdat

"Daive’s explanation of his friend’s work—that “the verb is absorbed into the energy of the composite noun”—simultaneously justifies his own fragmentary method in Under the Dome, for it is through such unclassifiable fragments that we can best understand Celan’s life: “Paul Celan chews a word like stone. All day long. It produces word-energy. It all goes into the energy of his composite words. Here we have his biography”… The generosity and expansiveness [of this memoir] make Daive’s achievement worthy of the loss that underwrites it."— John Steen, "Wounds," OXONIAN REVIEW http://www.oxonianreview.org/wp/luminous-wounds/

Born in 1941, Jean Daive has since the 1960s been composing an enigmatic oeuvre, a kind of investigation alternating between poetry, narration and reflective prose. He is also a photographer. He has worked on encyclopedias and as radio journalist, has edited three magaziness as well as translated Paul Celan and Robert Creeley. His first book, Décimale blanche (1967) was translated into German by Paul Celan, into English by Cid Corman. Other important titles are Fut bâti (1973), Narration d'équilibre (1982-90: 9 volumes) and the prose series, La Condition d'infini (1995-97: 7 volumes, of which Under the Dome is volume 5).

Burning Deck has also published his A Lesson in Music (trans. Julie Kalendek).

Rosmarie Waldrop’s recent poetry books are Curves to the Apple, Blindsight (both New Directions), and Love, Like Pronouns (Omnidawn). University of Alabama Press published her collected essays, Dissonance (if you are interested).