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The Book of Questions
Volume I [The Book of Questions, The Book of Yukel, Return to the Book]
Edmond Jabès; Rosmarie Waldrop, trans.




Wesleyan
1991 • 404 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"
Literary Criticism - French / Jewish Studies / Philosophy

$32.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6247-0


Rev. ed. Trans. from the French

“…language of rare density, a powerful and abrupt unit of tone, a vibrant soberness at the same time lyrical and abstract…unique in French prose.” —Roger Caillois, Les Nouveaux Cahiers

A meditative narrative of Jewish Experience and man’s relation to the world.

The Book of Questions, of which volumes IV, V, VI are together published here, is a meditative narrative of Jewish Experience, and, more generally, man’s relation to the world. In these volumes the word is personified in the woman Yaël, silence in her still-born child Elya. Even though words imply ambiguity and lies, they are the home of the exile. A book becomes the Book, fragments of the law that are in some way unified, where past and present, the visionary, and the common place, encounter each other. For Jabès every word is a question in the book of being. Man defines himself in the world against all that threatens his existence- death, the infinite, silence, that is, God, his primal opponent. How can one speak what cannot be spoken?

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Reviews / Endorsements

“…language of rare density, a powerful and abrupt unit of tone, a vibrant soberness at the same time lyrical and abstract…unique in French prose.” —Roger Caillois, Les Nouveaux Cahiers

“Neither novel nor poem, neither essay nor play, The Book of Questions is a combination of all these forms, a mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogues, songs, and commentaries that endlessly move around the central question of the book: how to speak what cannot be spoken”Paul Auster, New York Review of Books

“For anyone who is interested in the last frontiers of thought and language he is an irreplaceable writer.”Graham Martin, Times Literary Supplement

“first of all a response to the problem of writing after the Holocaust, of speaking the unspeakable. To Theodor Adorno’s assertion that ‘one can no longer write poetry after Auschwitz,’ Mr. Jabès offers the poet’s only possible reply: ‘One must.’ Mr. Jabès recognizes, though, that one can no longer write as before. His answer to this dilemma takes the form of a series of questions about book, word and sentence, speech and silence, God, justice and the law. Instead of one narrative voice, The Book of Questions offers a theater of voices in a labyrinth of forms. It is a work of great moral authority and urgency as well as beauty.”—Michael Palmer, New York Times Book Review

“Rosmarie Waldrop’s superb translation of Jabès now makes broadly available the work of a writer whose concerns are close to those of some of the central American poetry and fiction of our present time. His is a poetry of interpretation, a madly belated midrash on the scripture of silence, a meditative mode in which scholia and commentaries animate the book of life…His questionings are those vast ones which can occur only when answers have already been given once and for all.” John Hollander



EDMOND JABÈS died in Paris in 1991 at the age of 78. He settled in France after being expelled from his native Egypt with other Jews during the 1956 Suez Crisis. In 1987 he received France’s National Grand Prize for Poetry. His other works available in English include The Book of Dialogue (1987), The Book of Resemblances (1990), and an anthology, From the Book to the Book (1991). ROSMARIE WALDROP’s most recent books are a volume of poetry, Peculiar Motions (1990), and a novel, A Form / of Taking / It All (1990). Her translations of Jabès won a Columbia University Translation Center Award.



Wed, 17 May 2017 12:50:42 -0500