The Jewish writer Nelly Sachs (1891-1970) writes in direct response to the Holocaust. She is uniquely a 'prophetic' poet, one of the greatest of that species in twentieth century. Her first book appeared in the immediate wake of the Second World War, in 1946.
Since that time, Hans Magnus Enzensberger declared, 'she has been writing fundamentally a single book'. That book is represented in this volume which reveals her whole progression rendered into English. Unlike earlier translators, Andrew Shanks calls his versions 'translations/imitations', moving away from the doggedly literal to render more faithfully the sense and intention of the originals.
Sachs escaped Berlin in May 1940. She found refuge in Sweden. Her major work is an evolving response to the trauma of the Holocaust.
In 1966 she received the Nobel Prize for Literature. This book includes all the lyric poetry Sachs published in her lifetime and adds the posthumous collection Teile dich Nacht, an introductory essay, and notes. Her poetry begins as a monumental lament for the victims of the Holocaust.
Other themes develop: biblical, Kabbalist and religious allusions, personal bereavement, mental breakdown. And there are reflections on poetic vocation in the darkness of recent history.