Paul Celan had two sons: the elder was named Francois, and the younger Eric. François died shortly after birth, but Eric was very close to his father until the poet’s suicide in 1970. In July 1959, when Celan, his wife and the 5 year-old Eric visited Sils-Maria in the Swiss alps, the poet planned to meet with Theodor Adorno, but unexpectedly had to return to Paris. In August Celan would write a short prose work recording this missed encounter called Gespräch im Gebirg (‘Conversation in the Mountains’), a curious fable about the meeting of two Jews. Celan’s text is not only a touchstone for the poet’s own Jewish identity, but also a central reference point in a debate surrounding charges of anti-Semitism directed at the French philosopher Alain Badiou.
As we shall see, Badiou is a key figure in Anabases – a book that is as much about the artist Eric Baudelaire as by him.