A few months before his death, Paul Celan described "Schneepart" as his 'strongest and boldest' book. A response to the turbulent events of 1968 - the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the attempted assassination of a student leader in Berlin - the collection is haunted by images of earlier violence and resistance in a dark European century: the hanging of anti-Hitler conspirators in 1944, the shooting of Rosa Luxembourg in 1919. These are poems of an Ice Age, their terrain the clarity of the limestone alp with its subterranean presence of caves and abysses. "Snow Part" is the first translation of "Schneepart" to be published in English. Its seventy poems were written between December 1967 and October 1968, and published in 1971, a year after Celan's death. To this volume, Ian Fairley adds some twenty posthumously published poems closely linked to "Schneepart".
Paul Celan was born Paul Antschel in Bukowina, Romania in 1920. In 1938 he visited France as a medical student, returning home in 1939 to study Romance languages and literature. The family was deported in 1942; Celan's parents died in a concentration camp and Celan was conscripted into a series of labour camps until 1944. He escaped, survived a period in a labour camp and eventually settled in Paris where he taught and wrote. After the war he emigrated to Bucharest, where he worked as a translator. He escaped to Vienna in 1947, and settled in Paris in 1948, the same year in which his first collection of poetry was published. In 1958 Celan was awarded the Bremen Literature Prize, and in 1960 the Georg Buchner Prize. He committed suicide in Paris in April 1970.