‘cannot read Edmond Jabès in a hammock

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The hammock being the latest development in my life.

The latest delight. So I thought, I can now read everything while lying down in my hammock. I can enjoy the sunshine and cool breeze, I can enjoy the great Colorado outdoors and not miss catching up on my reading because I’ll be reading, hiking, camping, writing, observing both still and active life, even sleeping, all in one–well, not true, it’s hard to hike in a hammock but it’s a light weight, easy to carry and put up when i go hiking and get tired after many miles and sight two trees close together, lo and behold, I’m up, up, wedged between two trees, swinging and singing “what a wonderful life,” eating a chocolate-filled granola bar, drinking water and opening a book, closing my eyes, opening my eyes, reading, listening to creeks, birds, whispering leaves and realizing that I carried the wrong book after all. Who takes Jabès to the wilderness? His words are born there but cannot be taken back.

It’s not even Jabès but musings about him. “Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès” by Rosmarie Waldrop, 2002. A great book on silence, translation, writing, the book, the novel, the word, life, God, the body, death, fiction, poetry, desert, wounds, Judaism, exile, reading, stories…all the things that Jabès was preoccupied with. My love for Jabès has made me pick up the wrong Jabès, or perhaps the right one, at the wrong time. The absence of Jabès makes me agree with Richard Stamelman, writer of the foreword, that loss is one constant companion but we take too long to realize it.

I’m one of those people who read forewords

Our desire to write, to talk, springs from a lack,” Edmond Jabès observes in one of his discussions with Marcel Cohen. Loss is the writer’s constant companion, present as his imagination nomadically crosses the sands of the desert he has left behind, as his words wander through the books that silence them, as his cries are swallowed up by the unrelenting endlessness of suffering, as his speech weakens before the immensity of the unspeakable, as his thoughts are blanched to nothingness by the margins they bleed into, as his writing collides with the impossibility of knowledge and his being with the impermanence of life and the horror of history.”

The hand holding the granola bar lets go to chew on the words above, the foreword to “Lavish Absence…”

Later, when I’m not in the hammock but can still read the book slowly, meditatively (because that’s the only way to read this book or any of Jabès for that matter) I marvel at the wisdom of the book, it’s attempt to share Jabès, and how it may not be possible to find another like him. Blanchot? Derrida? They do and do not compare. Profound, yes, but they don’t sing with the same beauty in the wilderness. They don’t sing with sadness that’s hopeful and raging at the same time, that’s a scream and an aphorism, present, absent, understated, but deeply felt.

I do not want to compare Jabès with others so skip the above paragraph

I only want to say if you haven’t, read him: The Book of Questions, 1976, The Book of Dialogue, 1987, The Book of Shares, 1989, The Book of Resemblances, 1990, The Book of Margins, 1993 and so on. Samples of his poems can be found on Poetry Foundation website: At the Threshold of the Book, Drawn Curtains, and Mirror and Scarf.



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