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by Paul Celan

Deathfugue Art and Culture Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (line)

Quote #1


The original title of this poem was changed from "Death Tango," in Romanian, to "Deathfugue" in German. One reason for this change is that "Deathfugue" directly makes reference to the great tradition of classical music in Germany, and its composers like J.S. Bach, who wrote "The Art of the Fugue." Also, the poem itself tries to mimic the fugue form, so it too is a highly polished work of art.

Quote #2

he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Marguerite
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling (lines 6-7)

The Nazis were extremely proud of Germany's cultural heritage, and they especially loved the Romantic period of the nineteenth century. Romanticism was all about the value of emotions and intuitions and the glory of nature. In these lines, you can see that the camp guard thinks of himself as a Romantic personality. He even invokes Marguerite from Goethe's Faust, one of the masterpieces of Romantic German literature.

Quote #3

he orders us strike up and play for the dance (line 10)

The playing of the "Deathfugue" by the prisoners shows a dark side of Germany's musical tradition. The camp guard tries to introduce art (or a parody of art) in an environment where it has no place.

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