Edmond Jabes

Edmond Jabes (Cairo, 1912 – Paris, January 2, 1991) was a Jewish writer and poet, and one of the best known literary figures to write in French after World War II. The son of a Jewish Italian family, he was raised in Egypt, where he received a classical French colonial education. He began publishing in French at an early age, and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1952 for his literary accomplishments. When Egypt expelled its Jewish population in 1956 (Suez Crisis), Jabes fled to Paris, which he had first visited in the 1930s. There he rekindled friendships with the surrealists although he was never formally a member of that group. He became a French citizen in 1967, the same year that he received the honor of being one of four French writers (alongside Sartre, Camus, and Levi-Strauss) to present his works at the World Exposition in Montreal. Further accolades followed—the Prix des Critiques in 1972 and a commission as an officer in the Legion of Honor in 1986. In 1987, he received France’s National Guard Prize for Poetry (Grand Prix national de la poesie).

Jabes is best remembered for his books of poetry, often published in multi-volume cycles, at least fourteen volumes translated by Rosmarie Waldrop,  Jabes’s primary English translator.