Queer Places:
Harvard University (Ivy League), 2 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138
35 Marie St., Sausalito, CA 94965
29 Rue Madame, 75006 Paris, France

The Many Loves of Etel Adnan | FriezeEtel Adnan (24 February 1925 – 14 November 2021) was a Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist. In 2003, Adnan was named "arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today" by the academic journal MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States.[1] Besides her literary output, Adnan made visual works in a variety of media, such as oil paintings, films and tapestries, which have been exhibited at galleries across the world.

Ethel N. Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon.[2][3] Adnan's mother Rose "Lily" Lacorte was Greek Orthodox from Smyrna and her father Assaf Kadri was a Sunni Muslim-Turkish high-ranking Ottoman officer born in Damascus, Ottoman Syria. Assaf Kadri's mother was Albanian.[4] Adnan's grandfather was a Turkish soldier.[5][6] Her father came from a wealthy family; he was a top officer and former classmate of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at the military academy.[6] Prior to marrying Adnan's mother, her father was already married with three children.[6] In contrast, Adnan's mother was raised in extreme poverty; her parents met in Smyrna during World War I while her father was serving as Governor of Smyrna. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Smyrna was burned during the Occupation of Smyrna, Adnan's parents migrated to Beirut. Adnan stated that her mother was 16 years old when she met her father, at a time when "the Greeks in Turkey were in concentration camps."[7][8]

Though Adnan grew up speaking Greek and Turkish in a primarily Arabic-speaking society, she was educated at French convent schools and French became the language in which her early work was first written.[9] She also studied English in her youth, and most of her later work was first written in this language. At 24, Adnan traveled to Paris where she received a degree in philosophy from the University of Paris.[7] She then traveled to the United States where she continued graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and at Harvard University.[7] From 1958 to 1972, she taught philosophy of art at the Dominican University of California in San Rafael.[10][7] She also lectured at many universities throughout the United States.

In 1977, Adnan re-established herself in California, making Sausalito her home. First a painter, her partner Simone Fattal founded the experimental Post-Apollo Press in 1982 in Sausalito, California, where she and Adnan lived in exile from Lebanon's civil war.

Adnan returned from the US to Lebanon and worked as a journalist and cultural editor for Al Safa newspaper, a French-language newspaper in Beirut. In addition, she also helped build the cultural section of the newspaper, occasionally contributing cartoons and illustrations. Her tenure at Al Safa was most notable for her front-page editorials, commenting on the important political issues of the day.[11]

In her later years, Adnan began to openly identify as lesbian.[12] She lived between Sausalito, California, and Paris, and had a home in Erquy, a small commune in Brittany, northwestern France where Adnan and her longtime partner Simone Fattal spent their summers. In 2021, they were interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist from their seaside apartment, with Adnan remarking how the commune is a straight line on the sea from her window. Fattal, in response, had shared how Adnan was so “impregnated by this straight line” that she would make a leporello each day, looking at the rocks, trees, surfers, and other people on the beach. Adnan died in Paris on 14 November 2021, at the age of 96.[14][15]

Published in 2018, "Etel Adnan", a biography of the artist written by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, inquires into the artist's work as a shaman and activist.[25][26] In 2020, the Griffin Poetry Prize is awarded to her book Time.[27]

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