If there were anywhere but desert : The Selected Poems of Edmond Jabes ; Translation by Keith Waldrop ; introduction by Paul Auster ; Afterword by Robert Duncan
New York : Station Hill Press, 1988. First Edition. Hardcover. 124 pages ; 25 cm. $16.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
if there were anywhere hut desert is the first bilingual selection from the poetic works of Edmond Jabes, long acknowledged for the mastery of his work in the unique prose genre—by turns poetic, philosophical, meditative, and narrative—invented by him. "Jabes lives in the French language as if it were the Sea," writes Robert Duncan in the Afterword, a truth accessible here both in the French originals and Keith Waldrop's extraordinary translations, drawn from Jabes' earliest and most recent poems. "In America," writes Paul Auster in the Introduction, "we have come to know Edmond Jabes through his prose works, but it is unlikely that these works would exist if he had not spent the first twenty years of his writing life as a poet. Poetry was Jabes proving ground, and as a careful reader of Keith Waldrop's translations will observe, the styles and themes that characterize The Book of Questions and The Book of Resemblances were already being explored by Jabes in the poems he wrote as a young man. One finds the same economy of reference, the same passionate lyricism, the same tendency towards aphorism and the same obsessive preoccupation with the act of writing itself. Even the theme of exile, which plays such a vital part in the later prose books, is already present in these early poems: 'Always in a foreign country, the poet uses poetry as an interpreter.'" It is impressive to see how much the whole oeuvre of Jabes stands as a continuity and a completion from its first moments to these very recent poems, an inquiry into the nature of writing and being.
About the author:
Edmond Jabes was born in Cairo in 1912, where he lived until the expulsion of Jews in 1956, and since then has lived in Paris. Long regarded as a key figure in contemporary French letters, he was one of four writers (with Sartre, Camus, and Levi-Strauss) whose work represented France at Montreal's Expo '67. In 1970 he received the coveted "Prix des Critiques," and in 1982, the "Prize for Arts, Letters and Science of the Foundation of French Judaism",- in 1986 he was named Officer of the Legion d'Honneur. Translations of his work have been published in Germany, Spain, Israel, and Italy, where he was honored with the 1983 Pasolini Prize and 1987 Cittadella Prize. In France, his major works have been published by Editions Gallimard, beginning with his collected shorter poems Je Bdtis Ma Demeure (I Build My Dwelling), 1959, and following with his major work, the great cycles of The Book Le Livre des Questions, seven volumes between 1963 and 1973, Le Livre des Resemblances, three volumes between 1976 and 1980,- Le Petit Livre de la Subversion Hors de Soupgon in 1982,- ,and Le Livre du Dialogue in 1984. In America, Wesleyan University Press has published The Book of Questions in four volumes between 1976 and 1984 and The Book of Dialogue in 1987. In 1988 Station Hill Press will publish his conversations with Marcel Cohen, From the Desert to the Book
About the translator.
Keith Waldrop's most recent books are The Ruins of Providence (Copper Beech), The Space of Half an Hour (Burning Deck), A Ceremony Somewhere Else (Awede), The Quest for Mount Misery (Turkey), and Water Marks (Underwhich Editions). He is co-editor of Burning Deck Press and directs the Graduate Writing Program at Brown University. His translations include The Notion of Obstacle by Claude Royet-Jounoud (Awede) and Etat by Anne-Marie Albiach (forthcoming from Awede).
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