Etel Adnan


Poet, writer, and painter, Etel Adnan (1925 - إيتل عدنان) was born in Beirut Lebanon to a Syrian father and a Greek mother. An only child with an active imagination, Adnan was her own best company. She attended convent school until her education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II which began when she was 16 years old.

During the war, she worked for the French Information Bureau and after some time was able to attend classes in preparation for the baccalaureate. She passed with high honors and hoped to attend engineering school, as she loved creating things. Her mother disapproved of her daughter pursuing what she considered man’s work and so Etel attended the newly opened École Superieur des Lettres.

It was here that Etel fell in love with philosophy and literature. Her first paper for her class was submitted by a friend to the newspaper Le Jour and published in their literary section before she even turned it in to her professor. Etel was offered a scholarship to study philosophy at the Sorbonne, an opportunity that she did not take until three years later, in 1950, when she went to Paris. Five years later she moved to the Unites States and continued her studies at Berkeley and Harvard. She taught philosophy at Dominican College in San Rafael, California from 1959-1972.

During this time, she also began publishing, releasing her first volume of poetry, Moonshot, in 1966. Since then, Adnan has published 8 books including the poetry collections Five Senses for One Death (1971), Jebu et l’Express Beyrouth-Enfer (1973), L’Apocalypse Arabe (1980), Pablo Neruda is a Banana Tree (1982), From A to Z (1982), and The Indian Never Had a Horse (1985) as well as two books written in prose, Sitt Marie Rose (1978) and “essay in the tradition of Siddharta’ Journey to Mount Tamalpais” (1986).

In 1976 she began work as the literary editor of L’Orient-Le Jour, a Beirut daily publication. Etel Adnan left Lebanon in 1976 and currently spends her time in Paris and Sausalito, California.

(From and University of Minnesota websites)

Publications: (

  • Sitt Marie Rose: A Novel (1978)
    Written in French, the novel was translated into English in 1982. It was inspired by the true story of a woman killed in the Lebanese Civil War by a childhood friend who had become a member of the right-wing Christian Kataeb Party party. Because of its controversial nature, the Arabic translation of the book was not marketed in Christian East Beirut. The novel criticizes the violence both of a Christianity that is "not in actual communication with any force other than the Dragon" and an Islam "forgets all too often that the divine mercy affirmed by the first verse of the Koran can only be expressed by human mercy."
  • 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)


  • al-Sitt Mari Ruz: riwayah. (Sitt Marie Rose.), with Jirum Shahin and Firyal Jabburi Ghazul.Al-Qahirah: 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.


  • Ce ciel qui n'est pas. Paris: LHarmattan, 1997.
  • Rachid Korachi: lcriture 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.


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