Edmond Jabes, on the first book (or only book) we write

When, as a child, I wrote my name for the first time, I knew I was beginning a book.

~ The Book of Questions

…”This phrase responded to something that was very true for me, very profound, which I must have experienced quite young.  But I had it confirmed by one of my granddaughters, it’s amazing.  She was five at the time, she’d just learned how to write, and the first thing she learned was to write her name.  So, she came in one day with a big sheet of white paper, where she’d written on top, Kareen, and in a very cool manner, she said, ‘I’m leaving you my book.’

“I was impressed, because I said to myself, It’s true, the child, when he writes one phrase, thinks he’s writing a book.  At the start, when he doesn’t know how to write, he puts three l’s or two m’s or whatever, he thinks he’s mastered it all.  And the disappointment for the child comes when he has really learned how to spell.  Like everyone, he has to learn how to write the words, not the word he invented, the word that represented the whole world for him.  They’ve reduced the word to what it is.  And when a kid starts to write, the first thing he wants to write is his name.

“Naming is extremely important, I deeply believe.  As soon as he has written his name, he’s said it all.  Kareen, that’s me.  It’s over.  What else would you have her say besides Kareen?  That’s the whole book.  Because the book is only a name, nothing else.  It’s the approach of a name.


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
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