The Art of Reading: From Homer to Paul Celan

  Bollack, Jean. 2016. The Art of Reading: From Homer to Paul Celan. Trans. C. Porter and S. Tarrow with B. King. Edited by C. Koenig, L. Muellner, G. Nagy, and S. Pollock. Hellenic Studies Series 73. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

26. Reading the Signifier*

Familiarity with that particular exercise of decoding, which evokes the magic of a mysterious mathematics, has certainly been of use to me in my lengthy search for the meaning taken on by the idiomatic words in Paul Celan’s poems, a project begun systematically some fifteen years ago. From the start, I had followed a procedure that borrowed Mallarmé’s means of verbal restoration. The effort to make this procedure explicit occupied a central place in all my work.

I discovered little by little that I was indeed working with a network of truth that was introduced into the common language like a different language, {367|368} a personal secondary idiom. The first language was not relegated, but rather clarified and contradicted, by rereading as an act tied to creation.

I sought to show in addition that the text ceases to be hermetic when one approaches it with the knowledge of the “Celanian” that is procured by familiarity with his poems. Hermeneutics then succeeds in identifying the particular by relying on the stable references of a vocabulary, and on the initially enigmatic data that come from a personal encounter with the world.

Works Cited

Bollack, J. 1947. “L’en-deçà infini: l’aporie du Cratyle.” In La Grèce de personne, 341–348. Paris.

———. 1985. “Eden encore.” In L’Acte critique: un colloque sur l’oeuvre de Peter Szondi, Paris, 21-23 juin 1979, ed. M. Bollack, 267–290. Lille.


[ back ] * Originally published as “Lire le signifiant,” in: Jean Bollack, La Grèce de personne: les mots sous le mythe (Paris, 1997), pp. 337–339.

[ back ] 1. [TN: Bollack 1997:341–348.]

[ back ] 2. Bollack 1985:267–290.

[ back ] 3. [TN: See below, Chap. 27.]