• Issue
  • Mar 09, 2022

Tribute: Etel Adnan, Lifelong Passion

Portrait of ETEL ADNAN in Turkey, 1973. Photo by Simone Fattal.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., New York.

Etel Adnan, the late Lebanese-American poet, writer, and painter, started a chapter of her short-story collection Master of the Eclipse (2009) with the following question: “Why is it that when one has more past than future, life’s earliest memories acquire a frightful acuity? More and more I realize that my childhood and early adolescence surge in front of me too often, as if they have become a person—a different person each time—who stops me in the street, begs for something I don’t understand, and then disappears not behind some corner but into fog, oblivion.” In this short chapter, titled “First Passion,” readers are privy to a rare glimpse of her life growing up in 1930s. It’s also the story of her first love—or as Adnan calls it, “somewhere between friendship and something we were too young to name”—a young girl by the name of Helen, who was her classmate at Catholic school.