Translator’s Introduction

      Paul Celan wrote “Conversation in the Mountains” in August, 1959, shortly after a missed meeting with an unnamed person on a mountain road. What he wrote after that failed rendezvous was a language-parable, mimicking the nineteenth century Romantic quest in which the ascent of mountains becomes a striving for the union of the soul with nature. The landscape of Celan’s piece recalls the Alpine terrain of stone, fields, and fir-trees which Buchner’s Lenz crosses in the 1837 fragment, but instead of the clamorous daylight of Lenz we have a world grown dark and silent, where “things have gone down in the west.’’ This is also the landscape of folktale, where plants, flowers and stones may or may not speak to the traveller, where to travel without one’s own shadow is to travel in search of a soul.