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Friday, 8 March 2013

Jabès' anancestors and a Pirkei Ieladim

I'm enjoying Jabès writings in the Little Book of Subversion Out of Suspicion and in the opening volume of the Livre des Questions. He builds a mosaic of words and images, topics and atmospheres that seem to set thought going in many directions. There is a tonality of skirting around things so that all sorts of meetings are possible - and maybe none is really in the roadmap: thought lives of what it meets, it dies in solitude, he writes. Soon after this bit a dialogue: what is the book about, asks the master, and the writer: I don't know. The book does. The knowledge of the book is what is taken seriously - an agency of the words, that can inspire, rebel, conflate, manipulate, open the way. This agency and this autonomy is also what moves Blanchot's books and, I suppose, carries weight towards Derrida's praise of the écriture.

One of Jabès artifices is to present the sayings of a Rebs. Rebs are folkloric sages, and sages carry authority in their names and folly in their peculiar ways of saying things. Their wisdom is in creating a form for their wisdom. But Jabès endeavor is anarcheological: the names of the Rebs appear as they appear to those who have a first contact with them, say, through the Pirkei Avot: the names of Hillel and Shamai and Akiva and Elisha Ben Avuya are slowly associated with their sayings and deeds and therefore have a doctrine unveiled, an oral doctrine, which is part of what the book somehow knows. Jabès is then proposing another set of Rebs with their doctrines and their orality. Characters of thought, but not characters being reported, but rather characters being unveiled from the requirements of the book itself. He writes a kind of Pirkei Ieladim - the wisdom of a Kinderland, the wisdom not of the ancestors, but of the anancestors. I believe this is a way to invoke thought: to be open to the wisdom which not inherited, to the books that are yet to be written, to the readerships that are to come.

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