Etel Adnan is a Lebanese-American poet, visual artist, and essayist. She was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1925, the daughter of a Greek Christian from Smyrna and a high-ranking Ottoman officer from Damascus. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, U. C. Berkeley, and Harvard, and from 1958 to 1972 she taught philosophy at Dominican University of California, in San Rafael. 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.”
Her volumes of poetry include The Arab Apocalypse (1989); There: In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other (1997); In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country (2005); Sea and Fog (2012), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry and the California Book Award for Poetry. 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, including in Documenta 13 and the 2014 Whitney Biennial and many solo exhibitions. Her artworks include handmade books of drawings, paintings, and poetry.
Adnan now resides in Paris with Simone Fattal, her partner of forty-seven years.