Buber's philosophy reads like sacramental poetry. His prose employs the language of his tradition -- parallel in nature with a rhythm that seems to spring from the words themselves. In accord with Hebrew poetry, he is concerned with the sensible object. In discord with Hebrew poetry, his sensible object is no sensible object at all, but an idea, an abstraction. That's what makes reading (and translating) Buber so difficult. His entire philosophy hinges on the antipodes of ''It'' and ''You'' and their relationship to ''I''. We quote: ''The attitude of man is twofold in accordance with the two basic words he can speak. The basic words are not single words but word pairs. One basic word is the word pair I-You. The other basic word is the word pair I-It.'' Makes perfect sense, eh? Buber goes on to explain that ''It'' is our experience of the world and ''You'' our relationship with it. ''It'' exists in time and space. ''You'' does not, and cannot, because ''You'' embodies both You and I. You contains eternity. Clearly, the danger of confusion is eminent, but the implications are fundamental and exciting. Through this kind of coded speak, Buber explores married love, loneliness, solitude, creation and the God who grounds all of these in the great ''You'' of Himself. There's no way to read Buber quickly, but this work has been highly influential in twentieth century theology, so it's worth the effort. Take your time and let the language do its work.
An Eighth Day View:
Martin Buber's "I and Thou" has long been acclaimed as a classic. Many prominent writers have acknowledged its influence on their work; students of intellectual history consider it a landmark; and the generation born since World War II considers Buber as one of its prophets.
The need for a new English translation has been felt for many years. The old version was marred by many inaccuracies and misunderstandings, and its recurrent use of the archaic "thou" was seriously misleading. Now Professor Walter Kaufmann, a distinguished writer and philosopher in his own right who was close to Buber, has retranslated the work at the request of Buber's family. He has added a wealth of informative footnotes to clarify obscurities and bring the reader closer to the original, and he has written a long "Prologue" that opens up new perspectives on the book and on Buber's thought. This volume should provide a new basis for all future discussions of Buber.