Jabès: over het boek

Over het boek bij Edmond Jabès: The Book… *


The Light of the Sea * 

If you burn a book, it opens unto absence in the flame. If you drown it, it unfolds with the wave. If you bury it, it quenches the thirst of the desert.

Because all words are pure water of salvation.

With a tree on fire the earth matches a sky full of fruit.

If we want to cross the threshold of truth we must cease to be, in the midst of what is.

Man and nature trade shadow and life.

The universe of shadows is the universe of an eye swept away in a flood. Night’s consciousness: a dead star.

Absent, the creature perceives the infinite. 

On the level of creation, the pupils are giant breasts.

The world is an infant to whom the eyes give suck.

At no time was the building an obstacle.

The stones are of passion,

the portal of reason.

Avoid confusing face and features. The face is omen, the features are attributes.  

Tern, swallow of the sea. The ocean has its own springtime.

The book, I have to admit, is closer to an anthology than to an epic.

The light of the sea adapts to the angry as well as to the cheerful wave. It has its string of dreams and its salt tears. This central brightness which envelops the world to the point of hiding it, in the daytime, from man, is it not the space beyond the page where our frustrated thoughts move, poor worlds led astray?

If we no longer think, it does not mean we stop thinking. Thought is the conscious and unconscious of the world. When a musician stops playing on his instrument it does not mean he no longer hears the sounds of the work he played. The brain takes the place of the ear. Memory revives with each note that is found again.

Have I lived in my memory? Is this how I remember so precisely a slice of vagabond life which I can hardly believe I lived? The other’s life , yet mine in Yaël’s wake whose face changed so constantly that every instant claimed it as its own. Thus our memories give us back our words, and we question the signs they gather for us to meditate on. Facing an accomplished fact we push our self-questioning through writing to the dimmest borders of the being that escapes us. We die a death for two where the book is born.

In the book, order is primeval whereas disorder is the systematic refusal to complete the work which every page reinforces with its void.

Making a book or, rather, helping it to come into being means above all blurring its utopian tracks, wiping out footprints. Then the word takes the place still warm from the heel. And we go to the word and with it retrace our silent, forgotten way, a way taken for and without it.

The book commands, and we guide the book. A writer’s life is a steady march toward a star. The constellations answer for his work. 

Black stars, which recall night, lined up for what festivities? On the page they no longer shine for the eye but for the mind.

“My eyes will be my thoughts, and my hands my road,” said the stranger whose voice sounds like mine when I create. 

Improvised paths of the eyes: a shadow mourns for a thing. Once its preeminence is expressed, appearance rejects appearance.

In the name of His creatures God accepts the world of a foreboding glimmer which like a gold dot blinking in space reveals in flashes (O moving solitude) the imperceptible broken line of death.


Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions, Yaël, elya, Aely, Translated from the French by Rosmarie Waldrop, Middletown, Connecticut 1983, (Wesleyan University Press)

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