Etel Adnan

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Etel Adnan
Academy of science etelsimone 2008 012.jpg
Born Ethel Adnan
(1925-02-24) 24 February 1925 (age 91)
Beirut, Lebanon
Nationality Lebanese American
Genre Poetry, Essay, Visual arts

Etel Adnan (born 24 February 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon) is a Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist. In 2003, Adnan was named "arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today" by the academic journal MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States.[1]

Besides her literary output, Adnan continues to produce visual works in a vareity of media, such as oil paintings, films and tapestries, which have been exhibited at galleries across the world.

She lives in Paris and Sausalito, California.[2]


Etel Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon.[3] Adnan's mother was a Christian Greek from Smyrna and her father was Muslim Syrian and a petty officer.[3] Though she grew up speaking Greek and Turkish in a primarily Arabic-speaking society, she was educated at French convent schools and French became the language in which her early work was first written.[4] She also studied English in her youth, and most of her later work has been first written in this language.

At 24, Adnan traveled to Paris where she received a degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne.[3] She then traveled to America where she continued graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and at Harvard University.[3] From 1952 to 1978, she taught philosophy of art at the Dominican University of California in San Rafael.[3] She has also lectured at many universities throughout the United States.

Adnan returned from America to Lebanon and worked as a journalist and cultural editor for Al-Safa, a French-language newspaper in Beirut. In addition, she also helped build the cultural section of the newspaper, occasionally contributing cartoons and illustrations. Her tenure at Al-Safa was most notable for her front-page editorials, commenting on the important political issues of the day.[5]

In her later years, Adnan began to openly identify as lesbian.[6]

Visual art[edit]

   Oil paint onto the canvas
Oil paint onto the canvas

Adnan also works as a painter, her earliest abstract works were created using a palette knife to apply oil paint onto the canvas – often directly from the tube – in firm swipes across the picture's surface. The focus of the compostions often being a red square, she remains interested in the "immediate beauty of colour".[7][8] In 2012, a series of the artist's brightly colored abstract paintings were exhibited as a part of documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany.[9]

Inspired by Japanese leporellos, Adnan also paints landscapes on to foldable screens that can be "extended in space like free-standing drawings".[7]

In 2014 a collection of the artist's paintings and tapestries were exhibited as a part of the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[2]

Etel Adnan's retrospective at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, titled "Etel Adnan In All Her Dimensions" and curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, featured eleven dimensions of Adnan's practice. It included her early works, her literature, her carpets, and other. The show was launched in March 2014, accompanied by a 580-page catalog of her work published jointly by Mathaf and Skira. The catalog was designed by artist Ala Younis in Arabic and English, and included text contributions by Simone Fattal, Daniel Birnbaum, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, as well as six interviews with Hans-Ulrich Obrist.

Written work[edit]

In English[edit]

  • Premonition / etel adnan :Poetry (2014)
  • Sitt Marie Rose: A Novel (1978)
  • Paris, When It's Naked (1993)
  • Master of the Eclipse (2009)
  • Seasons (2008)
  • In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country (2005)
  • In/somnia (2002)
  • There: In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other (1997)
  • To Write in a Foreign Language (1996)
  • Of Cities and Women, Letters to Fawwaz (1993)
  • Paris, When It's Naked (1993)
  • The Spring Flowers Own and the Manifestations of the Voyage (1990)
  • The Arab Apocalypse (1989)
  • Journey to Mount Tamalpais: An Essay (1985)
  • The Indian Never Had a Horse and Other Poems (1985)
  • From A to Z Poetry (1982)

In Arabic[edit]

  • al-Sitt Mari Ruz: riwayah. (Sitt Marie Rose.), with Jirum Shahin and Firyal Jabburi Ghazul.Al-Qahirah: al-Hayah al-Ammah li-Qusur al-Thaqafah, 2000.
  • n mudun wa-nisa: rasail il Fawwaz. (Of Cities and Women.) Bayrut: Dar al-Hihar, 1998.
  • Kitab al-bahr; kitab al-layal; kitab al-mawt; kitab al-nihayah, with Abid Azarih. Bayrut: Dar Amwaj, 1994.
  • al-Sitt Marie Ruz. Bayrut: al-Mu-assasah al-Arabiyah lil-Dirasat wa-al-Nashr, 1979.

In French[edit]

  • A propos de la fin de l'Empire Ottoman, Galerie lelong, 2015
  • Le Prix que nous ne voulons pas payer pour l'amour, Galerie lelong, 2015
  • Prémonition, Galerie Lelong, 2015
  • Paris mis a nu. France: Editions Tamyras, 2011, translated by Martin Richet.
  • Ce ciel qui n'est pas. Paris: LHarmattan, 1997.
  • Ce Ciel qui n'est pas. Bilingual edition (French-Arabic): Tunis: Tawbad, 2008.
  • Rachid Korachi: Ecriture passion, with Rachid Korachi and Jamel-Eddine Bencheikh. Alger: Galerie Mhamed Issiakhem, 1988.
  • L'apocalypse arabe. Paris: Papyrus Editions, 1980.
  • Sitt Marie Rose. Paris: Des Femmes, 1978.
  • Jbu: Suivi de l'Express Beyrouth enfer. Paris: P.J. Oswald, 1973.


"There's always a conductive thread through space for untenable positions."[10]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Adnan also has a RAWI Lifetime Achievement Award from the Radius of Arab-American Writers.


  1. ^ Majaj, Lisa Suhair and Amireh, Amal (Eds.) "Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist", Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Etel Adnan", The Whitney Museum of American Art, Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Etel Adnan: About" Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Etel Adnan: Biography" Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  5. ^ Myers, Julian; Rabben, Heidi (eds.). The Ninth Page: Etel Adnan's Journalism 1972-74. San Francisco: CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-0-9849609-3-4. 
  6. ^ Lisa Suhair Majaj and Amal Amireh, Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. McFarland & Company, 2001. ISBN 0786410728.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Etel Adnan, 8 October – 16 November 2014 White Cube, London.
  9. ^ Smith, Roberta. "Art Show as Unruly Organism" The New York Times, Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  10. ^ Adnan, Etel (2014). Premonition. Kelsey Street Press. 
  11. ^ "2010 Arab American Book Award Winners" Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  12. ^ "California Book Awards" Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  13. ^ "25th annual Lambda Literary Award winners announced". LGBT Weekly, June 4, 2013.
  14. ^ "Etel Adnan Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres" Agenda Culturel, Retrieved 10 April 2014.


  1. Amireh, Amal; "Bearing Witness: The Politics of Form in Etel Adnan's Sitt Marie Rose." Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 2005 Fall; 14 (3): 251-63. (journal article)
  2. Amyuni, Mona Takieddine. "Etel Adnan & Hoda Barakat: De-Centered Perspectives, Subversive Voices." IN: Poetry's Voice-Society's Norms: Forms of Interaction between Middle Eastern Writers and Their Societies. Ed. Andreas Pflitsch and Barbara Winckler. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert; 2006. pp. 211–21
  3. Cassidy, Madeline. "'Love Is a Supreme Violence': The Deconstruction of Gendered Space in Etel Atnan's Sitt Marie Rose." IN: Violence, Silence, and Anger: Women's Writing as Transgression. Ed. Deirdre Lashgari. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia; 1995. pp. 282–90
  4. Champagne, John G. "Among Good Christian Peoples: Teaching Etel Adnan's Sitt Marie Rose." College Literature, 2000 Fall; 27 (3): 47-70.
  5. Fernea, Elizabeth. "The Case of Sitt Marie Rose: An Ethnographic Novel from the Modern Middle East." IN: Literature and Anthropology. Ed. Philip Dennis and Wendell Aycock. Lubbock: Texas Tech UP; 1989. pp. 153–164
  6. Foster, Thomas. "Circles of Oppression, Circles of Repression: Etel Adnan's Sitt Marie Rose." PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 1995 Jan; 110 (1): 59-74.
  7. Ghandour, Sabah. "Gender, Postcolonial Subject, and the Lebanese Civil War in Sitt Marie Rose." IN: The Postcolonial Crescent: Islam's Impact on Contemporary Literature. Ed. John C. Hawley. New York, NY: Peter Lang; 1998. pp. 155–65
  8. Hajjar, Jacqueline A. "Death, Gangrene of the Soul, in Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan." Revue Celfan/Celfan Review, 1988 May; 7 (3): 27-33.
  9. Hartman, Michelle. "'This Sweet/Sweet Music': Jazz, Sam Cooke, and Reading Arab American Literary Identities." MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, 2006 Winter; 31 (4): 145-65.
  10. Karnoub, Elisabeth. "'Une Humanité qui ne cesse de crucifier le Christ': Réécriture du sacrifice christique dans Sitt Marie Rose de Etel Adnan." IN: Victims and Victimization in French and Francophone Literature. Ed. Buford Norman. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi; 2005. pp. 59–71
  11. Kilpatrick, Hilary. "Interview with Etel Adnan (Lebanon)." IN: Unheard Words: Women and Literature in Africa, the Arab World, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. Ed. Mineke Schipper. Trans. Barbara Potter Fasting. London: Allison & Busby; 1985. pp. 114–120
  12. Layoun, Mary N. "Translation, Cultural Transgression and Tribute, and Leaden Feet." IN: Between Languages and Cultures: Translation and Cross-Cultural Texts. Ed. Anuradha Dingwaney and Carol Maier. Pittsburgh, PA: U of Pittsburgh P; 1995. pp. 267–89
  13. Majaj, Lisa Suhair. "Voice, Representation and Resistance: Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose." Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels. Ed. Lisa Suhair Majaj, Paula W. Sunderman and Therese Saliba. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press, 2002. 200-230.
  14. Majaj, Lisa Suhair and Amal Amireh. Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co, 2002.
  15. Marie, Elisabeth Anne. Sacrifice, sacrifée, sacrificatrice: L'étrange triptyque: Sacrifices au féminin dans trois romans francophones libanais. Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 2003 May; 63 (11): 3961. U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2002.
  16. Mejcher-Atassi, Sonja. "Breaking the Silence: Etel Adnan's Sitt Marie Rose and The Arab Apocalypse." IN: Poetry's Voice-Society's Norms: Forms of Interaction between Middle Eastern Writers and Their Societies. Ed. Andreas Pflitsch and Barbara Winckler. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert; 2006. pp. 201–10
  17. Mustafa, Daliya Sa'id (translator). "Al-Kitabah bi-lughah ajnabiyyah." Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 2000; 20: 133-43 (Arabic section); 300-01 (English section).
  18. Muzaffar, May. "Iytil 'Adnan: Qarinat al-nur wa-al-ma'." Arabi, 2007 Feb; 579: 64-68.
  19. Obank, Margaret. "Private Syntheses and Multiple Identities." Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, 1998 June; 2: 59-61.
  20. Shoaib, Mahwash. "Surpassing Borders and 'Folded Maps': Etel Adnan's Location in There." Studies in the Humanities, 2003 June-Dec; 30 (1-2): 21-28.
  21. Willis, Mary-Angela. "Francophone Literature of the Middle East by Women: Breaking the Walls of Silence." IN: Francophone Post-Colonial Cultures: Critical Essays. Ed. Kamal Salhi. Lanham, MD: Lexington; 2003. pp. 64–74
  22. Willis, Mary-Angela. La Guerre démasquée à travers la voix féminine dans Sitt Marie Rose d'Etel Adnan et Coquelicot du massacre d'Evelyne Accad. Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 2002 Mar; 62 (9): 3061. U of Alabama, 2001.

External links[edit]