The first retrospective collection of 50 years of writing by our leading Arab-American innovative writer
An Etel Adnan Reader
This landmark two-volume edition follows Adnan’s work from the infernal elegies of the 1960s to the ethereal meditations of her later poems, to form a portrait of an extraordinarily impassioned and prescient life. Ranging between essay, fiction, poetry, memoir, feminist manifesto, and philosophical treatise, while often challenging the conventions of genre, Adnan’s works give voice to the violence and revelation of the last six decades as it has centered, in part, within the geopolitics of the Arab world, and in particular the author’s native Beirut. Among the key works reproduced in their entirety are Sitt Marie Rose (1978); The Arab Apocalypse (1980); Journey to Mount Tamalpais (1986); and Of Cities & Women (1993).
Adnan’s connections burn rather than soothe, and now is a good time to revisit her world tour. Nightboat is releasing a new edition of To look at the sea is to become what one is, a comprehensive collection that contains everything mentioned here (either in full or in excerpts).
Love, for Adnan, is our only way to endure upheaval. It is not sentimental love. It is an ethics that seeks to preserve what we have rather than see it destroyed. It is a particular bravery, too. “Love in all its forms is the most important matter that we will ever face, but also the most dangerous, the most unpredictable, the most maddening,” Adnan writes.“But it is also the only salvation I know of.”
Adnan has written the majority of her published work from her forties onward. As to look at the sea is to become what is: An Etel Adnan Reader attests, she’s enjoyed a blossoming as a poet of first rank much later in life than most. I’ve read Adnan’s work for many years and heard her read in person on one or two occasions but the weight of this biographical fact concerning her output somehow never struck me until looking through this gathering. The trajectory of her writing across the span of her life climbs in complete contradiction to the popular perception of “the poet’s arc”. There is no youthful voice, no breakthrough moment. No single major work. There are simply a series of major works which are all reproduced here in whole. Adnan’s writing embodies equally significant milestones illuminatingly fresh in both spiritual (bodily) and aesthetic (intellectual) realms. This collection contains nearly if not all of her essential work to date, it is without doubt a groundbreaking roll call stridently feminist and anti-war to its core. If you want an intercultural poet hero look no further.
To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader is a milestone and a monument: a milestone for the ongoing recognition of a writer who, despite her prescience, relevance, and power, has remained marginal for many American readers, and—composed of two volumes of just under 400 pages each—a monument made of words, a compelling presence that’s the product of a half-century of Adnan’s writing.Moving chronologically, the reader collects poems from across Adnan’s career; it also includes large swathes of prose that range from memoir to journalistic dispatch to philosophical musings to personal recollection to aesthetic theory. The volumes reproduce several of Adnan’s works in their entirety, most notably, the 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose (written in French, English translation by Georgina Kleege) and the long poem The Arab Apocalypse (written in French in 1980, English translation by Adnan in 1989).
She writes primarily in a language not her first. She paints her beloved Mount Tamalpais in California with a poet’s obsession. She writes poems with a painter’s sense of composition. She has been called arguably the most accomplished living Arab American author and has also had visual art exhibited around the world, including in the Whitney Biennial. She is multilingual, multitalented, and of many homes.
Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1925. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, U.C. Berkeley, and at Harvard, and taught at Dominican College in San Rafael, California …