Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fons Vitae

A recent post from Irina mentioned the movie "Un Chien Andalou", (which for some bizarre reason is actually titled "Le Chien Andalou" in the movie itself). The title made me think of Andalusia, the beautiful southern tip of Spain, the Biblical Tarshish.

It is an amazing feeling when you pick up a book, and the opening sentences take you prisoner.

HIS METAPHYSICS emerge from desire: his ethics evolve to a science of sense. What begins there in wisdom ends in anger: what was anger gives way to a grace. He is a poet of poles and swells and reversals, of splits that propose a completion. He is the most modern of the Hebrew medievals, the most foreign to a modernist approach. In his verse what looks like a mirror is meant in fact to be passed through: transparency marks a divide. Hebrew is Arabic, Muslim Jewish, his resistance a form of embrace.

The author is talking about Avicebron, aka Ibngebirol, aka Avengebirol, aka Avengebrol, aka Avencebrol, aka Avicebrol. To us Jews, he is Shlomo ben Yehuda Ibn Gabirol, who re-introduced Neoplatonism to Europe seven centuries after Plotinus and became one of the cornerstones of medieval Scholastic philosophy. He was also an extraordinary poet.

Here is a sample.

The Pen

Naked without either cover or dress,
utterly soulless, and hollow -
from its mouth come wisdom and prudence,
and in ambush it kills like an arrow.


Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...


I need to get more of this.

Are the numerous names all due simply to a difference in transliteration?

April 02, 2006 10:09 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


In addition to Ibn Gabirol, there are also Yehuda(Judah) HaLevi and Moshe(Moses) ibn Ezra, among others who were part of the Golden Age of Spanish Hebrew culture.

The names are various European attempts to write down the Arabic (just like Ibn Rushd became Averroes and Ibn Sina became Avicenna)

April 03, 2006 7:26 AM  
Blogger Stevin said...

Am I horrible? I've never heard of the guy. You've seriously piqued my interest.

April 05, 2006 4:16 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


Ibn Gabirol is not as well known as some of the other poets of the time period. Yehuda haLevi is probably the most well known due to his work, The Kuzari, which argues for the primacy and legitimacy of Judaism by relating a story of the conversion of the Khazars.

Some of Ibn Gabirol's philosophy was also not looked upon favorably by the Rabbis, and although he was never declared a heretic, his ideas were not very aligned with more traditional Jewish thought.

April 06, 2006 7:05 AM  

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