Edmond Jabès, A Good Reader


“A good reader is, first of all, a sensitive, curious, demanding reader. In reading, he follows his intuition. Intuition — or what could pass as such — lies, for example, in his unconscious refusal to enter any house directly through the main door, the one that by its dimensions, characteristics and location, offers itself proudly as the main entrance, the one designated and recognised both outside and inside as the sole threshold.

To take the wrong door means indeed to go against the order that presided over the plan of the house, over the layout of the rooms, over the beauty and rationality of the whole. But what discoveries are perceived from that angle. All the more so because I am not sure that one can enter a written work without having forced one’s way in first. One needs to have wandered a lot, to have taken many paths, to realise, when all is said and done, that at no moment has one left one’s own.”

Edmond Jabès, From the Book to the Book. (v / @flowerville)


Exploration and Discovery List Part 1

From my pocket notebook, a list of twenty writers to explore; a memory prompt for when I am browsing in a bookshop. Most came as further reading from a book I’ve read, or passing comments on social media that intrigued me. Beyond cursory sampling I’ve read nothing of their work.

  1. Paula Gooder
  2. Matei Calinescu
  3. Vittorio Hösle
  4. Anton Shammas
  5. Miguel de Beistegui
  6. David Nowell Smith
  7. Susan Woolfson
  8. Roger Foster
  9. Christine Brooke-Rose
  10. Rachel Moran
  11. Michel-Rolph Trouillot
  12. Amitav Ghosh
  13. Roy Scranton
  14. Ricardo Piglia
  15. Ann Quinn
  16. Jacqueline Rose
  17. Edmond Jabes
  18. Max Tegmark
  19. Caleb Everett
  20. Agnes Collard

“Every True Reader is a Writer in Force”


“Yes, exactly. But every true reader is a writer in force. A true reader is someone who remakes the other’s book. Besides, it’s the movement itself of the book. When you open a book, first of all, it’s a harsh act, because you break it. You open it up, to get out what’s inside. You begin your reading with the first page. You read the first page, you think you’ve retained it all. When you turn the page, what remains of the first, in the second? One or two phrases, an emotion at the moment of an encounter. You read the second page, go on to the third; of the second that you have nonetheless read completely, few things remain. All the rest gets erased. And gradually like that until the end. At the end, the book that you’ve enjoyed, that you’ve read with the greatest attention, becomes a book that’s fragmented by you, by the important pieces of your reading. It’s with that, that you will make your own book. And the author is always surprised when they cite a phrase of his when there were other phrases right beside it that perhaps seemed more important to him. For example, in my own experience, in the last book of The Book of Resemblances there are one or two phrases that were extremely important for me, phrases about myself, that revealed a lot of things. At least I thought so, that they were going to stop there and say, “Ah, look at this, here.” Well, even my closest friends didn’t see these phrases. What does that say? That says you can’t, you, transmit something through the book. It is blank each time. You can’t say, on a certain page, “Here it is,” because the reader doesn’t understand. Finally, it’s that all books work or they don’t. And when it does, it works according to the reading that you have given it. Of my books there have been the most contradictory readings.”

from this interview with Edmond Jabès