If in this world you lay a claim, let seven births be your aim! Once be born in a burning home, once in a flood in an icy storm, once in a clinic where the mad retreat, once in a field of bending wheat, once in a cloister with a hollow ring, once in a sty with a pigsty…
I discovered Edmond Jabès’ The Book of Questions serendipitously. The son of wealthy Egyptian Jews, Jabès’ earliest literary friendships were with Max Jacob, Paul Eluard, and Rene Char.
The Book of Questions is the story of two young lovers during the Nazi deportations; not using any traditional narrative, it speaks of Jewishness, silence, dispossession, and writing.
“There seems nothing strange about the fact that ancient rabbis can converse with a contemporary writer, that images of stunning beauty can stand beside descriptions of the greatest devastation, or that the visionary and the commonplace can co-exist on the same page. From the very beginning, when the reader encounters the writer at the threshold of the book, we know that we are entering a space unlike any other.” - Paul Auster
“In the last ten years nothing of interest has been written in France that does not have its precedent somewhere in the texts of Jabès.” - Jacques Derrida, 1972
I came across Violette Leduc's Mad in Pursuit in a used bookshop, and bought it due to the mention of Simone de Beauvoir on the back jacket. I then found La Bâtarde at my university’s bookstore. Maybe she’s taught in a French Authors in Translation there; I didn’t investigate. I was just happy to find the book. But I’ve never seen her mentioned anywhere, and I’ve never heard anyone else reference her.
[READER SUBMISSION…sorry I lost track of his name!]
I have been researching and writing about William March for around 4 years now, but no one else even knows he exists (outside of the Bad Seed film mostly). His WWI anti-war novel “Company K” was hailed as one of the finest war novels ever written (by Graham Greene, nonetheless), but he has faded into obscurity. I authored his wikipedia page, as there was none to be found when I went searching…I find it quite depressing that someone who was heralded as “the unrecognized genius of our time” would simply cease to be relevant.