Politics and the Imagination
by Raymond Geuss
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Upon accepting the Georg-Büchner-Prize for German literature in 1960, the poet Paul Celan gave a speech titled "The Meridian." Celan was not given to clarity in his verse, and "The Meridian" is no different. It is, however, the best account we have of what Celan was up to in his art. An essay about the speech sits at the center of Raymond Geuss's terrific collection Politics and the Imagination and might well hint at what Geuss, professor of philosophy at Cambridge, is himself up to.
Celan says that in his poetry he attempts "to speak, to orient myself, to project for myself reality." This he does by arranging, in a single poem, an array of otherwise unconnected events along what he calls a "meridian." That the operative metaphor here is one of location is perhaps not surprising for a poet whose life was a series
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