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.
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.