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Photo by Simone Fattal
Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1925. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, U.C. Berkeley, and at Harvard. In solidarity with the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), Adnan began to resist the political implications of writing in French and became a painter. Then, through her participation in the poets’ movement against the Vietnam War (1959-1975), she began to write poetry and became, in her words, “an American poet.” In 1972, she returned to Beirut and worked as cultural editor for two daily newspapers—first for Al Safa, then for L’Orient le Jour. Her novel Sitt Marie-Rose, published in Paris in 1977, won the France-Pays Arabes award and has been translated into more than ten languages. In 1977, Adnan re-established herself in California, making Sausalito her home, with frequent stays in Paris.
At least eighteen works by Adnan have been published in English. They include The Arab Apocalypse (The Post-Apollo Press, 1989); Sea and Fog (Nightboat Books, 2012), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry and the California Book Award for Poetry. In 2011, Adnan received Small Press Traffic’s Lifetime Achievement Award. And, in 2014, she was awarded one of France’s highest cultural honors: l'Ordre de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres.
Her paintings, described by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith as “stubbornly radiant abstractions,” have been widely exhibited, most recently at Documenta 13 and in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
Spanning media and genres, Adnan’s writings have led to numerous collaborations with artists and musicians, including the French part of Civil warS, a multi-language opera by American stage director Robert Wilson, performed in Lyon and Bobigny in 1985. In 1996, the BBC commissioned Gavin Bryars to set poems by Adnan to music; under the title The Adnan Songbook. Zad Moultaka set Adnan’s poetry to music: in 2005, he arranged Adnan’s Five Senses for One Death for the Baalbeck Festival in Lebanon under the title Nepsis.
Premonition is Adnan's first title from Kelsey Street Press.
Etel Adnan's website
New York Times Art & Design on Etel Adnan exhibition at Callicoon Fine Arts
"Of Etel Adnan and superstring theory": a conversation with Hans-Ulrich Obrist in the Lebanon Daily Star
New York Times Guide to the 2014 Whitney Biennial
Etel Adnan in All her Dimensions at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
Announcing Etel Adnan's first solo show in China