The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 5 no. 2


Edmond Jabès

On Humor

Translated from the French by Rosmarie Waldrop


 “A fact harmless in itself may sometimes be at the origin of considerable events.
    “We never notice right away. This is my first lesson.
    “As for the second: There is no human discovery that is not mostly a profound manifestation of divine humor,” wrote Reb Gazi.
    And Reb Bittar: “What a sense of humor: God hides us from ourselves so that one day our most natural gestures may astonish us.”

    “The greatest of our learned men were humorists,” said Reb Botton. And added: “Living in a state of sanctity may mean pushing humor all the way to its negation, which is another form of humor.”

    “All choice is humorous. All creation, a wager of humor,” wrote Reb Aris.

    “Give me an example of God’s humor.”
    “Give me an example of man’s humor.”
    “God,” wrote Reb Nassif.

    “‘The first mark in space was a mark of humor. What will be the last, the cruelest?’ asked Reb Amhat of Reb Zahar.
    “‘Perhaps,’ the latter replied, ‘an invisible point.’
    “And he told the story of a man who one night talked so long with God that his face kept to his death the same malicious smile, a reflection of his infinite knowledge,” reported Reb Assoud.

    “All these tears, no doubt to slake our thirst for humor . . .,” Reb Aris wrote also.



from The Book of Resemblances II, by Edmond Jabès, translated from the French by Rosmarie Waldrop, published by Wesleyan University Press