Felstiner, John 1936- (Louis John Felstiner, Jr.)

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Felstiner, John 1936- (Louis John Felstiner, Jr.)


Surname is pronounced Fel-stinner; born July 5, 1936, in Mount Vernon, NY; son of Louis J. (an attorney) and Gertrude Felstiner; married Mary Lowenthal (a university professor), February 19, 1966; children: Sarah Alexandra, Aleksandr Lowenthal. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1958, Ph.D., 1965. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Singing, book collecting, running.


Home—Stanford, CA. Office—Department of English, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2087. E-mail—[email protected]


Stanford University, Stanford, CA, assistant professor, 1965-72, associate professor, 1972-79, professor of English, 1979—, fellow at Stanford Humanities Center, 1983-84, 1996-97, 2004-05. University of Chile, Fulbright professor, 1967-68; Hebrew University of Jerusalem, visiting professor, 1974-75; Yale University, visiting professor of comparative literature, 1990, 2002; New York State Summer Writers Institute, teacher of translation workshops, 1997-99. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1958-61; served in Mediterranean theater; became lieutenant junior grade.


Modern Language Association of America, American Literary Translators Association, Association for Jewish Studies, Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Dexter fellow in England, 1964; First Kenyon Review Award in Criticism, 1967, for essay "Max Beerbohm and the Wings of Henry James"; grant for Mexico City, Social Science Research Council, 1970; National Endowment for the Humanities, junior fellow, 1971-72, fellow, 1989-90, grant, 1992; Gold Medal for nonfiction, California Commonwealth Club, 1980, for Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu; Rockefeller Foundation, humanities fellow, 1980-81, resident at Ballagio Center, 1996; scholar, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, 1980-81; grant from Pew Foundation, 1983; Guggenheim fellow, 1983-84; translation fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1985-86, 2002-03; first prize from translation competition, British Comparative Literature Association, 1991, for translation of work by Pablo Neruda and Paul Celan; Gold Medal, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, 1991, for "Looking for Kafka"; award finalist in nonfiction category, National Book Critics Circle, 1995, finalist for James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Association of America, 1996, and Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, 1997, all for Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew; Lois Roth Award for Translation, Modern Language Association of America, Translation Prize, PEN Center USA West, and Ungar German Translation Award, American Translators Association, all 2001, for Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan.


(Editor) Henry James: The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 1966.

The Lies of Art: Max Beerbohm's Parody and Caricature, Knopf (New York, NY), 1972.

(Translator, with Jonathan Cohen and David Unger) Enrique Lihn, The Dark Room and Other Poems, introduction by Patricio Lerzundi, New Directions (New York, NY), 1978.

Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1980.

Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1995.

(Translator) The Heights of Macchu Picchu, with photogravures by Edward Ranney, Limited Editions Club (New York, NY), 1998.

(Coeditor) Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology, Norton (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor and translator) Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, Norton (New York, NY), 2000.

Author of introduction, Paul Celan: A Biography of His Youth, by Israel Chalfen, Persea Books (New York, NY), 1991; Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs: Correspondence, Sheep Meadow Press (Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY), 1995; and Convoy to Auschwitz: Women of the French Resistance, by Charlotte Delbo, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1997; also affiliated with the works Deathfugue/Todesfuge by Celan, Limited Editions Club, 2001; and Fugat-mavet/Todesfugue by Celan, 2005. Contributor of articles and translations to periodicals, including Kenyon Review, New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, Comparative Literature, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Modern Poetry in Translation, Parnassus, Threepenny Review, and Twolines.


John Felstiner's book, Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew, is the first critical biography of Paul Celan, a German-speaking Jew often considered the most compelling of Europe's post-World War II poets and the leading German poet after Hölderlin and Rilke. According to Michael Andre Bernstein in New Republic, Celan's "collected works constitute the one indispensable body of verse written by a Western European since the death of Rilke in 1926."

Born in 1920, Celan suffered the loss of both his parents at the hands of the Nazis and worked at forced labor for nineteen months. In 1952 he married Gisele de Lestrange, a graphic artist who was the offspring of an old French Catholic family; she had a son, Eric, in 1955. Although published by Germany's leading houses and winning its major prizes, Celan suffered from episodes of depression that led him in 1970 to commit suicide by drowning himself in the Seine River.

When Celan's poetry collection Mohn und Gedächtnis was released by a Stuttgart publisher in 1952 it received a good deal of publicity from numerous German newspapers. The controversial nature of its central poem, "Todesfugue," which concerns the then-recent Holocaust or Final Solution, made Celan and his work the focal point of a good deal of national discussion. According to Bernstein, "Celan immediately became one of the most widely discussed poets in the country…. ‘Deathfugue’ almost overnight became the country's single most commented-upon, reprinted and officially canonized poem about the Shoah. The poem's unprecedented reception helped fuel Celan's later suspicion that it was being misused to suggest a kind of aestheticized reconciliation between Germans and Jews."

Bernstein noted "Felstiner's effort of careful research and imaginative sympathy…. Nobody has so convincingly registered the Jewish dimension in Celan's language and thought as Felstiner. The importance to Celan's work of the Hebrew Bible and (by way of Gershom Scholem and Martin Buber) Kabbalistic and Hassidic lore has long been recognized, yet Felstiner provides by far the most extensive account we have of their crucial function in the texture of Celan's verses. His alertness to Celan's Jewish sources, buttressed by his access to the poet's voluminous and still largely unpublished notebooks is invaluable."



New Republic, October 30, 1995, Michael Andre Bernstein, review of Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew, p. 35.

New York Review of Books, November 5, 1981, Alastair Reid, review of Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu, p. 54; November 14, 1996, John Bayley, review of Paul Celan, p. 38.

Times Literary Supplement, June 2, 1995, George Steiner, review of Paul Celan, p. 3.

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Felstiner, John 1936- (Louis John Felstiner, Jr.)

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