Misreading or Missed Reading? Levinas on Edmond Jabès

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In 1973 Levinas was one of a number of literary and philosophical personalities to be asked by the Parisian Jewish review Les Nouveaux Cahiers how he saw the “place” of Edmond Jabès in contemporary literary production and how he evaluated the poet’s position on exile and wandering as integral components of the condition of both the writer and the Jew. Levinas’s one-page response (republished in Noms propres) praised the “vertiginous” aspects of Jabès’s book while clearly betraying the philosopher’s deep mistrust of poetic or literary activity. Sixteen years later, on the occasion of a tribute to Jabès at the Centre National des Lettres in Paris, Levinas once more found himself solicited, this time by the review Instants, to comment on Jabès’s work. Levinas contributed a short text entitled “Le hors-de-soi-du-livre (en guise de lecture talmudique)”, in which Jabès seems to get short shrift indeed. My study shows what is at play in these two texts by Levinas and in particular the stakes of Levinas’s “misreading” or more aptly his “missed” reading of Jabès’s work.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationLevinas Autrement
EditorsRoger Burggraeve, Joelle Hansel, Marie-Anne Lescourret
ISBN (Print)978-2758401285
StatePublished - 2012


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