from The Book of Questions

Edmond Jabes

(The alley (a dead end) could have gone all across town, if they had let it. A wall blocked its way. And behind the wall, tall buildings, which time had dressed in mourning. The alley struggled in a rectangle of stone like the book in its bounds of ink and paper, under its worn cover.

For the writer, discovering the work he will write is both like a miracle and a wound, like the miracle of the wound.

It seemed to me I had for centuries shuttled between life and death (the life and death of my race) to end up at this place to be born.

I let words take their place in my book. I followed them with my finger. They came to me in twos and, sometimes, in fives or tens. I respected the moving order they entered me with. I knew I had been carrying this book within me for a long time.

Far from the harbor, the boat grew larger. As I faced the open sea, my book became the single place where all roads cross and urge us on. But a scream went through me. And on this scream I built my suffering to sail from ocean to ocean.)

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