Richard Melson

July 2006

Edmond Jabes

Edmond Jabès

Biographical Note and Bibliography

Edmond Jabès (Cairo, 1912Paris, January 2, 1991)

was a Jewish writer and poet, and one of the best known

literary figures to write in French after World War II.

The son of a Jewish Italian family, he was raised in Egypt, where he received a classical French colonial education. He began publishing in French at an early age, and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1952 for his literary accomplishments.

When Egypt expelled its Jewish population in 1956 (Suez Crisis),

Jabès fled to Paris, which he had first visited in the 1930s.

There he rekindled friendships with the surrealists although he was never formally a member of that group. He became a French citizen in 1967, the same year that he received the honor of being one of four French writers (alongside Sartre, Camus, and Levi-Strauss) to present his works at the World Exposition in Montreal. Further accolades followed -- the Prix des Critiques in 1972 and a commission as an officer in the Legion of Honor in 1986. In 1987, he received France's National Guard Prize for Poetry (Grand Prix national de la poésie).

Jabès's cremation ceremony took place a few days after his death – at age 78 – at the cemetery of Père Lachaise.

Jabès is best remembered for his books of poetry, often published in multi-volume cycles, at least fourteen volumes translated by Rosmarie Waldrop – Jabès's primary English translator. They often featured references to Jewish mysticism and kabbalah

Edmond Jabès (1912-1991) has created a new kind of literary work, as dazzling as it is difficult to define. A mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogue, songs and commentaries that circle around the central question: how to say what cannot be said.

Jabès was born in Cairo in 1912.

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 Grand Prix national de la poésie.

He died in 1991.


Je bâtis ma demeure: Poèmes 1943-1957, Paris: Gallimard, 1959 (1975)

Le Livre des questions, Paris: Gallimard

I. Le Livre des Questions, 1963

II. Le Livre de Yukel, 1964

III. Retour au Livre, 1965

IV. Yael, 1967

V. Elya, 1969

VI. Aely, 1972

VII. El, ou le dernier livre, 1973

Ca suit son cours, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1975

Le Livre des Ressemblances, Paris: Gallimard, 1976-80

I. Le Livre des Ressemblances, 1976

II. Le Soupçon le Désert, 1978

III. L'Ineffacable l'Inapperçu, 1980

[Le Livre des Limites]

I. Le petit livre de la subversion hors de soupçon, Gallimard, 1982

II. Le Livre du dialogue, Gallimard, 1984

III. Le Parcours, Gallimard, 1985

IV. Le Livre du partage, 1987

Récit, Fata Morgana, 1983

Dans la double dépendance du dit, Fata Morgana, 1984

La Mémoire et la main, Fata Morgana, 1986

Aigle et chouette, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1986

Le Livre des Marges, Paris: Hachette: Livre de poche, 1987 [75,84]

Un étranger avec sous le bras un livre de petit format, 1989

La Mémoire des mots, Paris: Fourbis, 1990

Le Seuil le Sable [Complete Poems 1943-88], Paris: Gallimard, 1990

Le Livre de l’hospitalité, Paris: Gallimard, 1991

Désir d’un commencement Angoisse d’une seule fin, Montpellier, Fata Morgana, 1991

L’Enfer de Dante, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1991

Un regard, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1992

Cela a eu lieu, Paris: Fourbis, 1993

Bâtir au quotidien, esquisse: Le Livre des Marges III, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1997

(with a preface by Viviane Jabès-Crasson)

Du désert au livre: Entretiens avec Marcel Cohen, Paris: Pierre Belfrond, 1980

In English:

Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop:

The Book of Questions, Wesleyan University Press, 1976-1984

I. The Book of Questions, 1976

II/III. The Book of Yukel/Return to the Book, 1977

IV/V/VI. Yaël, Elya, Aely, 1983

VII. El, or the Last Book, 1984

The Book of Dialogue, Wesleyan University Press, 1987

The Book of Shares, Chicago UP, 1989

The Book of Resemblances, Wesleyan University Press, 1990

I. The Book of Resemblances, 1990

II. Intimations The Desert, 1991

III. The Ineffaceable The Unperceived, 1992

From the Book to the Book [A Jabès Reader], Wesleyan UP, 1991

A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book, Wesleyan UP, 1993

The Book of Margins, Chicago UP, 1993

The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion, Stanford University Press, 1996

Desire for a Beginning Dread of One Single End, Granary Books, 2000

By other translators:

A Share of Ink, [Selected Short Poems] trans. Anthony Rudolf, Menard Press, 1979

If There Were Anywhere But Desert: Selected Poems, trans. Keith Waldrop, Station Hill Press, 1988

From the Desert to the Book: Dialogues with Marcel Cohen, trans. Pierre Joris,

Station Hill, 1990

On Jabès:

Jacques Derrida, "Edmond Jabès et la question du livre, L'écriture et la différence, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1967

Maurice Blanchot, "Traces," L'Amitié, Paris: Gallimard, 1971

Joseph Guglielmi, La Ressemblance impossible: Edmond Jabès, Paris: Editeurs F Français Réunis, 1978

Adolfo Fernandez-Zoïla, Le Livre, recherche autre d’Edmond Jabès, Paris: Jean- Michel Place, 1978

Gabriel Bounoure, Edmond Jabès, la demeure et le livre, Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1984

Myriam Laifer, Edmond Jabès, un judaïsme après Dieu, New York: Peter Lang, 1986

David Mendelson, ed., Jabès: Le livre lu, Paris: Point hors Ligne, 1987

Mary Ann Caws, Edmond Jabès, Amsterdam: Ed. Rodopi, 1988

Richard Stamelman & Mary Ann Caws, eds., Ecrire le livre: autor d’Edmond Jabès,

Colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle, Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 1989

Didier Cahen, Edmond Jabès, Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1991

Daniel Lançon, Jabès l’Egyptien, Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1998

Steven Jaron, ed., Portrat(s) d’Edmond Jabès, Bibilothèque nationale de France, 1999

Eric Benoit, Ecrire le cri: Le livre des questions d’Edmond Jabès,

Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2000

De la crise du sens à la quête du sens: Mallarmé, Bernanos, Jabès,

Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 2001

In English:

Paul Auster, "Interview with Edmond Jabès," Montemora, #6 (1979),

reprinted in The Sin of the Book

Eric Gould, ed., The Sin of the Book: Edmond Jabès, University of Nebraska Press, 1985

—, Studies in 20th Century Literature, 12, No.1: Edmond Jabès Issue (Fall 1987)

Warren Motte Jr., Questioning Edmond Jabès, University of Nebraska Press, 1990

Jason Weiss, Writing at Risk: Interviews in Paris with Uncommon Writers,

University of Iowa Press, 1991

Rosmarie Waldrop, Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès,

Wesleyan University Press, 2002


1970 Prix des Critiques (for Elya)

1982 Prix des arts, des Lettres et des sciences of the Foundation for French Judaism

1983 Pasolini Prize [Italy]

1987 Citadella Prize [Italy]

1987 Grand prix national de la poésie

1998 Officier de la Légion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres

Selected bibliography:

In English (Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop):

I. The Book of Questions, 1976

II / III. The Book of Yukel / Return to the Book, 1977

IV / V / VI. Yaël, Elya, Aely, 1983

VII. El, or the Last Book, 1984

I. The Book of Resemblances, 1990

II. Intimations The Desert, 1991

III. The Ineffaceable The Unperceived, 1992

In English (By other translators):

Selected works on Jabès (In English):

reprinted in The Sin of the Book

University of Iowa Press, 1991

Wesleyan University Press, 2002

Edmond Jabes, Suez Crisis, Jews

July 2, 2006