Mirror and Scarf

By Edmond Jabès 1912–1991 Edmond Jabes

Translated By Rosmarie Waldrop

"We will gather images and images of images up till the
last, which is blank. This one we will agree on."

- Reb Carasso

Mardohai Simhon claimed the silk scarf he wore around his neck was a mirror.
    "Look," he said, "my head is separated from my body by a scarf. Who dares give me the life if I say I walk with a knotted mirror under my chin?
    "The scarf reflects a face, and you think it is of flesh.
    "Night is the mirror. Day the scarf. Moon and sun reflected features. But my true face, brothers, where did I lose it?"
    At his death, a large scar was discovered on his neck.
    The meaning of this anecdote was discussed by the rabbis.
    Reb Alphandery, in his authority as the oldest, spoke first.
    "A double mirror," he said, "separates us from the Lord so that God sees Himself when trying to see us, and we, when trying to see Him, see only our own face."
    "Is appearance no more than the reflections thrown back and forth by a set of mirrors?" asked Reb Ephraim. "You are no doubt alluding to the soul, Reb Alphandery, in which we see ourselves mirrored. But the body is the place of the soul, just as the mountain is the bed of the brook. The body has broken the mirror."
    "The brook," continued Reb Alphandery, "sleeps on the summit. The brook's dream is of water, as is the brook. It flows for us. Our dreams extend us.
   "Do you not remember this phrase of Reb Alsem's: 'We live out the dream of creation, which is God's dream. In the evening our own dreams snuggle down into it like sparrows in their nests.'
    "And did not Reb Hames write: 'Birds of night, my dreams explore the immense dream of the sleeping universe.'"
    "Are dreams the limpid discourse between the facets of a crystal block?" continued Reb Ephraim. "The world is of glass. You know it by its brilliance, night or day."
    "The earth turns in a mirror. The earth turns in a scarf," replied Reb Alphandery.
    "The scarf of a dandy with a nasty scar," said Reb Ephraim.

                      ("Words are inside breath, as the earth is inside time."
                                                                           - Reb Mares)

    And Yukel said:

    "The bundle of the Wandering Jew contains the earth and more than one star."

    "Whatever contains is itself contained," said Reb Mawas.

    The story I told you, as well as the commentaries it inspired, will be recorded in the book of the eye. The ladder urges us beyond ourselves. Hence its importance. But in a void, where do we place it?

                                                                            ("God is sculpted."
                                                                                  - Reb Moyal)

Edmond Jabès. "Mirror and Scarf" from From the Book to the Book © 1991 and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: From the Book to the Book: An Edmond Jab�s Reader (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)

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Poet Edmond Jabès 1912–1991


Subjects Philosophy, Judaism, Arts & Sciences, Religion

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 Edmond  Jabès


An Egyptian Jew, Edmond Jabès was forced into exile by the 1956 Suez Crisis. He fled to Paris, where he joined the community of Surrealists, though he was never a formal member of the group. Jabès lived in France for the rest of his life, and in 1987 received France’s Grand Prix for Poetry. A major voice in postwar French poetry, Jabès remains difficult to categorize as a writer. His work is a pastiche of dialogue, aphorism, . . .

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SUBJECT Philosophy, Judaism, Arts & Sciences, Religion


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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