|Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal|
Etel Adnan is a famous Arab-American poet and abstract painter. She was born on February 24th, 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon. Her mother was a Christian Greek, while her father was a Muslim Syrian. In her early years, she spoke mainly Turkish and Greek at home, but also learned French while she was at a French convent school. In fact, French was the first language that she began to compose poetry in. She also then learned English and composed much of her later work in that language. It was also at this time that she began to paint. As she spoke so many languages, she never was sure which one she ought to compose in, and described herself as being “caught” between the languages. She explained that art requires no language, and she was free to be herself when she was painting.
Adnan moved to Paris in 1949 at the age of 24, where she studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. She then moved again to the United States, where she continued her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and also at Harvard University. She then began to teach at the Dominican University of California from 1952-1978, as well as lecturing at other universities across the country. During this time, as the Algerian war was then taking place, she tried to resist the political implications that society placed on writing in French.
She then returned to Lebanon to work for the French language newspaper Al-Safa. She contributed significantly to the cultural section of the paper, working as both a journalist and the culture editor at this time. Adnan is also known for her insightful political commentary that would be published in the paper, commenting on the politics of that time.
Adnan moved back to Paris once the Lebanese civil war began, where she penned Sitt Marie Rose in 1977. She then later returned to the United States, where she has been a prolific writer and lives with her partner, fellow writer and artist Simone Fattal.