Institute of Jewish Studies
Documentation and information
European Judaism. - Oxford, 1966, currens
, p. 107-120
University of Antwerp
A close reading of three poems written in the aftermath of the Holocaust Paul Celan's 'Vor einer Kerze', Nelly Sachs' 'Die Stimme Israels' and Marie Luise Kaschnitz' 'Zoon Politikon' discloses different positions assigned to the child that are paradigmatic for poetry 'after Auschwitz'. The three poems invoke the child as carrier of memory and continuity, and therefore as a link between past and future. However, the temporal modes in which this link is inscribed in each case could hardly be more different. These modes correspond to temporalities associated with the child in traditional respectively Jewish, romantic, 'enlightened' discourses. While Celan's figure of the child is bent on eternally holding a wake over the past, Sachs poetically conjures up a reawakening in the guise of a child resurrected in the poetic present. In Kaschnitz' poem, which addresses the perpetrators, the child is evoked as the voice awakening an as yet somnolent conscience to responsibilities to be taken up in the future.