Pre-Dialogue, II

By Edmond Jabès 1912–1991 Edmond Jabes

Translated By Rosmarie Waldrop

...this insignificant interval between death and dying.

One cannot accept or refuse, O death, emptiness, air, sun.

The "I" is the miracle of the "You."

   "This follows from a certain logic," he said: "the 'I' to designate the 'You,' the 'You' to justify the 'I,' and 'He' for disappearing."

   There is no present. There is a past haunted by the future and a future tormented by the past.
   The present is the time of writing, both obsessed with and cut off from an out-of-time brimming with life.

                              (Now that all is silent within me, will I, who have
                         hardly known how to talk to myself, still be able to
                         speak? I almost cannot hear myself any more. On this
                         'almost' I shall rest my words or, rather, what stub-
                         bornly still wants to be words—though they be deaf
                         to the call of the world—an take entire charge of
                         them. Expressing nothing, they will express me all the

   For pain, forgetting is an island of flowers.
   Sweet smell of emptiness.

   Fabulous a wing
   unfolding in the paltry field of things.

   Night finds no consolation in night, but in the lavish star bespangled with all its lights.

   Others: a fiction.

Edmond Jabès. "Pre-Dialogue, II" 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 Jabès Reader (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)

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Poet Edmond Jabès 1912–1991


Subjects Religion, Arts & Sciences, Living, Philosophy, Death

Poetic Terms Aphorism

 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 Religion, Arts & Sciences, Living, Philosophy, Death


Poetic Terms Aphorism

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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