Pre-face to Notimesone

by Jean-Luc Nancy

A speech for you, a speech to you − one more time still, for it is impossible for me to speak or write about you. I can only stand before you, and at the same time speechless.

You say that speechlessness is speech-openness, openness to language and openness of language. I know. It is even one of your leitmotifs.

I hear you immediately: “Or motif of sorrow [Leidmotiv]…”

– Yes, sure, because only through the ineffability of suffering can a language be true.[1]

I do not yet hear you speak of the pain that exceeded you… Not only not of the last, overwhelming pain, but also not of that pain that long before your suffering and lamentation − illness or various duties − took your breath away, burdened you, and constricted the unaltered buoyancy of your body, soul and thought. There was never enough time and space, never enough words, pages and gestures to say and do what an amazing force wanted to achieve through you − amazing in its intensity as well as in its everlasting desire to put all power out of use. The word power[2] is most often encountered in your syntagma out of power [außer Kraft].[3]

You sought to exhaust your own strength − in two ways: using it wholeheartedly, to the end and beyond the possible practice of language and thought − but also spending it, so as to leave it behind bled out and destroyed. So it is that your own genius expressed itself, which was the object of its practice, and which one day suggested I take your name literally − “Doer of Ha!” − that is, thinker and writer of a definite and repeated ex-clamation [Aus-ruf] where what you call the most exposed language was set-out, out of breath.[4] You then speak of Adorno’s verdict on poetry after Auschwitz and the way Celan heard it − or better yet, the way you hear that hearing in his poetry.

That is why poetry − singularly Celan’s, but also others’ − will have been a preferred object of your thinking. And preferred at the point where it is no longer an object for you but rather − neither object nor subject − being itself or doing, the existence and action of a will to say what robs it of its consistency in saying everything and willing everything. You say that this is what Celan’s poetry wants and that it is this wanting that you want for your part, until all wanting and all saying is exhausted in it − but in a nihilistic exhaustion in nothing, because it says itself, at the end of its powers, at the end of speaking: it says itself as the poem.

You say: The poem in its greatest condensation is the poem there where it holds to itself as a placeholder of a pause, in the phenomenon of a non-phenomenal. [5]

You say that in Celan’s pause, in the most intimate part of his poem.

Werner Hamacher is a very mighty giant who bends over the insects − the slimmest poems of Paul Celan −, who sensitively takes them between his fingers, examines their joints, their claws, their cell membranes before putting them back on the sheet to see them move

Werner Hamacher is a thinker for whom Paul Celan’s words make him think out his own thought, as if it were born in these poems, as if this thinking was nothing but the resonance of the poem. Not its commentary, but its echo or its dissemination.

Werner Hamacher is a well into which the sounding words of Paul Celan fall as if into their own play and fall room, one in which they expose their sense-appearances in order to sink into the thickening silence beneath the speaking.

Of course, this means everything must be turned around, not according to reciprocity, to symmetry, but according to the tensions, the pushes, the becoming and dissolving of shape in the struggle of bodies.

Celan is unique, he is not interested in meeting an interpreter or translator on his way. But here he encounters himself. This means the impossibility of identifying oneself, the impossibility that separates the self from itself and allows it to move on. There where what will not have been said inescapably leaks.

Celan is a stray insect on the sheet that a courteous giant picks up with his fingers in order to set it down sensitively where it finds protection: under the sheet, where the words cannot want to say what they say − without stopping to say themselves.

Celan, surprised insect, fell on the backside, in a net of lines stretched by Werner. Of course, it is a net that stretches itself:

fall ich dir zu, fällst / du mir zu[6]
[fall I toward you, fall / you toward me]
Du versus mir – oder besser Du für mich, Du zu mir[7]
[You toward me – or better You for me, You at me]

… agonizing question of how to translate the zu – even in German, in German itself. They – you and I – are turned one toward the other, one leaned toward the other, one turned against the other.

That makes them match only at the price of a mismatch, just as the correspondence between the poem-verses brings about the break in their rhythm. Even the Celan reader – this reader you are reading to me – does not truly, essentially read it as a break of the verse, as a break through the verse. What is then added to this reading is the unwritten. Here is said what Werner reads in Celan, through Celan, one in the other and one despite the other.

For if the gesture of Werner’s reading − not commentary, not exegesis, not interpretation, not gloss, but all this mixed and carried along into another movement that, as one says in French, colle au texte (in English perhaps “a reading that sticks close to the poem”…) − tends to be indistinguishable from the gesture of the poem and makes Celan-Hamacher a sort of “same”, then this only happens according to the law of the same, that they expose themselves to one another.

(What a difference to Heidegger and those who, like him, draw a truth from the poem, whereby the appearance of the poem as such remains unnoticed! Werner points this out here and there.)

Celan writes

has lost
us, the[8]

and Hamacher unfolds the samehood of the same in his/its own distinction, its separation, its division.

For the same comes from the other and can only come from the other, over a chaos and a gap. An abyss separates us − us, that is, him and me as well as [9] the world and us. The poem is the appearing of this: from the world to language and from language to the world that remains foreign to it. Divided from the division.

But there still, no nihilism and no fruitful no, for what occupies the in-between-the-two, the interval of division, is a meandering empty middle.[10]
A middle that wanders around, roams around, walks around: not nothing, not a subject, but a touch, an excitement, an impulse.

This is how the poem À Ia pointe acérée[11] (title and quality) shows that Ores [Erze] are transformed into a Heart [ein Herzgewordenes].

Beating heart, the one the other, you to me, pause and resumption, recitation of verses, raising/lowering, being and thinking, poem and noem, Paul and Werner.

Jean-Luc Nancy, September 2018

Translated from German into English by Manuela Koelke
(Originally translated from French to German by Peter Trawny)

My thanks go to Timothy Lavenz for the helpful comments and suggestions that make this English translation glow.

Originally published in: Werner Hamacher, Keinmaleins [Notimesone], Klostermann 2019.

[1] Up to here in German in the original text (P.T.hat
[2] German phrase in the original text (P.T.)
[3] German phrase in the original text (P.T.)
[4] German phrase in the original text (P.T.)
[5] German phrase in the original text (P.T.)
[6] Paul Celan, Selbdritt, Selbviert [Threesome, Foursome]. In: Ders.: Niemandsrose, Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1963, p.17. Translator’s note (M.K.): The poem quoted in the text is Zu Beiden Händen, not Selbdritt, Selbviert.
[7] [In the original: Toi vers moi – ou bien toi pour moi, toi à moi]
[8] Celan, Selbdritt, Selbviert [Threesome, Foursome]. A.a.O., p.17. Translator’s note (M.K.): The poem quoted in the text is Zu Beiden Händen, not Selbdritt, Selbviert.
[9] [In the original: de même]
[10] Celan, Selbdritt, Selbviert [Threesome, Foursome]. A.a.O., p.17. Translator’s note (M.K.): The poem quoted in the text is Zu Beiden Händen, not Selbdritt, Selbviert.
[11] Paul Celan, À Ia pointe acérée. In: Ders.: Niemandsrose, Frankfurt a.M.: S. Fischer Verlag, 1963, pp. 48sq.

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