cover image A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book

A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book

Edmond Jabes. Wesleyan University Press, $35 (123pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-5259-4

In this illuminating philosophical book, Jabes, who died in 1991 and lived in France after being forced to leave Egypt with other native-born Jews during the Suez War, ruminates on the link between being Jewish and being mislabeled as a foreigner. It is also an indictment of bigotry. Jabes writes, ``the basic racist is the man who refuses himself as he is. . . . The antisemite can never forgive the Jews for being capable of self-realization. . . .'' Elsewhere he observes in verse on his own experience of exile: ``I left a land not mine / for another, not mine either. / I took refuge in a word of ink with the book for space, / word from nowhere, obscure word of the desert.'' His seamless style brings to mind both religious and French existential writings, although some musings reach heights too abstract to follow: ``We must from now on grant citizen's rights to the foreigner's new name: the foreign I . / Foreign Me, foreign You designated by the I.'' Here, too, Jabes ( The Book of Questions ) evokes powerful images of the desert to underscore a mood of isolation and comments wisely about aging and power. (Nov.)