The publication of this correspondence was as eagerly awaited in Germany as an equivalent exchange of letters between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath might have been here. Celan and Bachmann, arguably the two greatest postwar German-language poets, were inconstant but devoted lovers. Celan, like Plath, committed suicide. Bachmann’s end just three years later – she burned alive in her Roman apartment – was hardly less tragic. For reasons that remain unclear, their letters had not been expected to see the light of day until 2023, fifty years after Bachmann’s death.
The correspondence begins after their first meeting, in Vienna in 1948, and ends in 1967, ten years after their on–off affair had come to an end. The inclusion of letters between Celan and Bachmann’s later lover, the Swiss writer Max Frisch, and the correspondence between Bachmann and Celan’s