ANTSCHEL – A Film about Paul Celan

Film Essay (45´)
TV Austrian Broadcasting Station II 2020
LiteraVision Television Prize  2022
By Susanne Ayoub (Director+Screenplay+Camera)
with Klaus Demus (narrator)
and Katharina Knap (spoken word)
Original German Version.

Translations exist in English, French, Ukrainian, and Romanian.

Paul Celan was from the Bukovina, “the former Habsburg province that has now fallen victim to the loss of history,” as he put it. He was born in 1920 in Czernowitz (Chernivtsi) to a German-speaking Jewish family. The locales of his childhood no longer existed after the Nazi terror. His family was murdered, and he himself was persecuted and imprisoned in a work camp. He escaped death only by good fortune.

Paul Celan’s passport photo

“Antschel” deals with a homeland in language, the language that was Paul Celan’s only place of refuge.

“There was this one thing amidst the losses that remained attainable, nearby, not lost: language.”


The film is a “landscape film.” City views—pictures from the past—turn up again in present-day Czernowitz. A trip to Sadagora, where Celan’s mother was from, leads to the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery.
Celan’s path through postwar Vienna. His identity card as a Jewish refugee.

“I didn’t stay long. I didn’t find what I had hoped to find.”

Susanne Ayoub with Klaus Demus
They drank dry the eyes of the seeing – from “The Jugs”

It is a landscape film in another sense as well: it visually interprets linguistic images from Celan’s poems.

‘“Think of me as someone you want to need, as I think of you, Paul, with all my might. – Yours, Klaus”

The narrator of the film is Klaus Demus, now 93 years old. He met Celan through Ingeborg Bachmann in Vienna and stayed connected to him for a lifetime.

Dedication to “Klaus , my brother.”

“The only way you can understand poetry is poetically. If you ask what it really means, you haven’t understood what poetry is. Because what it really means is probably ineffable.”

Le Pont Mirabeau

Translation Geoffrey C. Howes