American Univesity of Beirut

AUB mourns the loss of renowned writer and artist Etel Adnan

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,

The AUB community mourns the passing of renowned Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist, Etel Adnan who passed away in Paris at the age of 96. Etel was a recipient of AUB's University Medal in 2017, in recognition of her extraordinary achievements as a writer and visual artist.

Adnan is an international literary figure who has published more than thirty volumes of poetry and prose that have been published in English, Arabic, French, and many other languages. Her poetry, novels, and nonfiction often tackled political discord in the Middle East. She is known for her novel Sitt Marie Rose (1978), a true story about the Lebanese civil war that has become a classic of war literature, translated into 10 languages and taught in classrooms around the world. Other books such as The Arab Apocalypse, a poetry collection from 1980; Of Cities and Women (Letters to Fawwaz); and In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country, address sociological, philosophical, and historical aspects of the region.

She also wrote numerous collections of poetry. Her latest, “Shifting the Silence," was published in October 2020. Reviewing her previous collection, “Night," for The New York Times Book Review, Benjamin Hollander desc​ribed it as “a meditative heir to Nietzsche's aphorisms, Rilke's 'Book of Hours' and the verses of Sufi mysticism," and “an intricate thread of reflections on pain and beauty."

Etel Adnan leaves a wealth of contributions to art and achieved international acclaim in her 80s as a visual artist whose paintings gained popularity and were last exhibited at the Guggenheim.

Born in Beirut in 1925, Adnan studied French literature at the École Supérieure des Lettres in Beirut from 1945 to 1949, teaching at the same time at the Ahliya High School. She received a scholarship to study philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, then moved to the United States in 1955 to continue her studies at Harvard University. However, after arriving in the US, she decided not to pursue her PhD but to teach humanities at Dominican College in San Rafael, California, where she started writing. She returned to Beirut in the early 1970s, where she worked for the cultural pages of the Lebanese daily L'Orient Le Jour, then left Beirut again at the outbreak of the civil war, visited many countries, and settled in Paris. A citizen of the world, Adnan was revered as a consummate “citizen" of AUB.

In a celebration at her home in Paris on May 14, 2017, AUB President Fadlo R. Khuri bestowed on Adnan the University Medal, which represents AUB's most prestigious recognition. ​

“I grew up in the vicinity of AUB and lived part of my adult life in Ras Beirut," said Adnan as she proudly and happily wore the medal around her neck throughout President Khuri's visit. “I have always dreamt of teaching at AUB. Receiving this medal touches me very much. I feel as though I enter AUB through its beautiful gates. It feels like a homecoming."

 Etel is survived by her partner, the artist Simone Fattal.

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