“Gespräch im Gebirg” (“Conversation in the Mountains”), Paul Celan’s only prose piece published during his lifetime, is often described as failed conversation, paradoxical or undecided in language and structure. Points of reference are frequently a dialogic structure of “I” and “thou” in light of Émile Benveniste, Emmanuel Levinas, Franz Rosenzweig, and Martin Heidegger, or Celan’s missed encounter with Theodor W. Adorno. It has, however, largely gone unremarked that Celan undertook an intensive reading of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s Monadology in August 1959, at the same time that his manuscripts show he was working on “Conversation.” In Leibniz Celan discovers the fold as the underlying principle of the monad, and, as the article shows, the figure of the fold pervades the imagery, the language, and the structure of “Conversation.” Celan uses the fold as a radically new literary form, as a nonindexical linguistic device to resist the harm and violence brought about through a language used for classification and delineation, and as a poetic figure to write an impossible conversation into existence.

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