Deathfugue
Deathfugue
by Paul Celan

Deathfugue Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

FugueA fugue is a musical piece that begins with some theme and then comes back to that theme several times, with variations. We don't know of any other "fugue" poems, certainly not any famous ones...

Speaker

The speaker of the poem actually appears to be a group of speakers. They are the Jews who are imprisoned in the concentration camp. They are almost like the members of a chain gang, singing a rhyth...

Setting

"Deathfugue" is set in a concentration camp somewhere in Europe during World War II. The Nazis set up concentration camps all over the territories they controlled, and this one could be anywhere. T...

Sound Check

We can think of no better way to describe the sound of this poem than to call it a circus carnival gone terribly wrong. Think of a merry-go-round that people are forced to ride, on which you see th...

What's Up With the Title?

The title is so central to the poem that English translators of the poem can't quite agree on what it should be. Some people prefer a translation of the original title in Romanian, "Death Tango." A...

Calling Card

The Absence of GodWow, that's kind of a chilling calling card to have. But there is no getting around the question of nothingness and the abandonment of men by God in Celan's poems. Celan was Jewis...

Tough-O-Meter

(6) Tree LineThis poem is not so much difficult to understand as it is difficult to read because of its subject matter. Celan uses a lot of symbols, but they are usually easy to pick out (milk, vip...

Brain Snacks

Celan was a big fan of the American poet Emily Dickinson and translated her poems into German (which must be almost as hard as translating Celan into English!). Can you see traces of Dickinson in t...

Sex Rating

GThis is a Holocaust poem, so sex isn't on anyone's mind. On the other hand, Marguerite and Shulamith are idealized erotic female figures, so we're left wondering why Celan chose to include them in...

Shout Outs

Religious ReferencesBook of Exodus 3:8 and the "land flowing with milk and honey" (lines 1-3) Faust by Wolfgang von Goethe (line 6) "Song of Songs" from Hebrew scripture and the Old Testament (line...

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