Edmond Jabès

For the scientific journal abbreviated as JABES, see Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics.
Edmond Jabès

Edmond Jabès (French: [ʒabɛs]; Hebrew: אדמון ז'אבס, Arabic: إدمون جابيس; Cairo, April 16, 1912[1] Paris, January 2, 1991) was a French writer and poet of an Egyptian origin, and one of the best known literary figures to write in French after World War II. The work he produced when living in France in the late 1950s until his death in 1991 is highly original in its form and its breadth.


The son of a prominent Jewish family in Egypt going back to the 15th century, he was born and brought up in Cairo where he received a classical French education. He began publishing in French and writing for the theater at an early age. He was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1952 for his literary accomplishments. His work after the exile from Egypt reflects a consciousness deeply troubled by the brutal reality of Auschwitz. His work exhibits a profound sense of melancholy and an acute sense that the Jew is constituted and always remains in exile.

When Egypt expelled its Jewish population (Suez Crisis), Jabès fled to Paris in 1956, 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 Lévi-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 Grand National 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 Père Lachaise Cemetery.


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.

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)

  1. Edmond Jabès, From the Book to the Book: An Edmond Jabès Reader (Wesleyan University Press, 1991) p xxi

Aimée Israel-Pelletier, "Edmond Jabès, Jacques Hassoun, and Melancholy: The Second Exodus in the Shadow of the Holocaust" in MLN French Issue, 2008


External links

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