Oskar Pastior was born in Sibiu in the Transylvanian region of Romania in 1927. A member of the minority ethnic German community, he spent five years in a Soviet forced-labour camp after the Second World War before being allowed to return home. From 1955 he studied German Language and Literature at the University of Bucharest, during which time he published his first poems. After graduating, he worked for the German language service of Romanian national radio. His first collection of poems, »Offne Worte«, was published in 1964. Despite winning literary awards in Romania, he felt confined by the »prefabricated and ideological language with its prescribed historical rules.« It was while studying in Vienna in 1968 that he emigrated to the west. He since lived as a freelance writer and translator in Berlin. »Vom Sichersten ins Tausendste« (1969) was the first of his many books of poetry to be published in Germany.
In the poetically resonant parallel world of Pastior’s writing, familiar language becomes alien and meaning is elevated to another dimension. The appeal of this surreal linguistic reality stems from a playful tendency to bend the rules. Christoph Meckel once said of this innovator of language: »He always perceived misconstruction, connotation, nonsense, wit and diversity as the true and genuine meaning of words.« Not surprisingly, Pastior was a member of OuLiPo (»Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle«/»Workshop for Potential Literature«), a group that has worked with revived and original writing techniques since its foundation in 1960.
Oskar Pastior was a master of lyrical forms, ranging from conventional writing in »Gedicht-gedichte« (1973; Eng. »Poempoems«, 1990) to the creation of »sonetburger« (1983), from rummaging around in »Höricht« (1975) to exploring the potential of the anagram in »Anagrammgedichte« (1985). He played with the palindrome in »Kopfnuß Januskopf« (1990), invented the vocalise (»Vokalisen & Gimpelstifte«, 1992) and fathomed the »hearing of the genitive« in »Das Hören des Genitivs« (1997). His »o du roher iasmin«, published in 2002, comprised 43 variations on Charles Baudelaire’s poem »Harmonie du soir«. The third volume of Pastior’s collected works »Minze Minze flaumiran Schpektrum« was published in 2004.
Pastior won numerous awards for his works, among them the Aachen Walter Hasenclever Prize and the Viennese Erich Fried Prize. He passed away on October 4, 2006, some days before he was to be given the Georg Büchner Prize for his »œuvre of tremendous radicalism and diversity of forms«.
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