Etel Adnan is a beacon of thought in a dirempt world. In her writing I sense her hovering just beyond, in view but ungraspable, yet grounding me in ever-changing realizations. Luminous company, trusted guide, necessary source of immediate information, Adnan is a visionary of the meteoric and diasporic. Oscillating between the ecstatic and the unbearable, she finds home in the evasive emplacements of each moment.
Sarah Riggs is a writer, artist, filmmaker and translator. She has published poetry books with 1913 Press, Burning Deck, Reality Street, Ugly Duckling Presse, Chax, and more. Riggs’s second Chax book, Eavesdrop, is just out, and The Nerve Epistle, a book of letter poems, comes out with Roof Books in 2021.
In The Radicality of Love, Srećko Horvat calls the practice of revolution an expression of love — at least, he claims, “if it wants to be worthy of its name” — and this denomination grounds a crucial amendment: “The worst thing that can happen to love is habit,” what with that worn patina of resignation — becoming-pedestrian, -routine. Rather than make love de novo, we endure it, suffer it, so that, to recognize oneself as numerous, to sublimate one’s solitude through the richness of shared experience means folding the Other into an abstraction (“the-Other-for-me”) — a “vision-in-one,” to borrow François Laruelle’s nomenclature, that cedes love-making for love-draining.
[L]ove must be reinvented, that’s obvious. — Arthur Rimbaud
The reinvention of the world without the reinvention of love is not a reinvention at all. — Srećko Horvat
A dialogue about love is utterly crucial to the remaking of the modern world in writing. — Leslie Scalapino
My six-year-old daughter, Georgia, and I arrived in San Francisco for a vacation last Wednesday night. I told her we were going to go to SFMOMA to look at the Etel Adnan paintings the next day and that we should go to City Lights before that, so we could get one of Adnan’s books. Maybe we would want to read it while we looked at her paintings.
When we got to the show, Georgia thought the paintings were boring and picked out her favorite one. When we got to the show, I thought the show was small and picked out my favorite one.
L’Apocalypse arabe is composed in French by the Arab American poet Etel Adnan. It was published in 1980; Adnan’s English translation appeared in 1989. Of the several rubrics under which The Arab Apocalypse may be read — visual poetry, surrealism, translation, postcolonialism — its work of witnessing most commands my attention. Not least because it was written in response to and in the immediate context of the Lebanese Civil War (which broke out in 1975), but also because these other strands (the visual, the surreal, etc.) make the act of witnessing a provocative challenge to any notion of stability that may — innocently or otherwise — attend questions of representation in literatures of witness.
A novel in which the subject is Paris. A collage novel. A list novel. A novel of various forms of hopefulness and despair.
“We’re moving towards something that does not exist. The voyage is infinite. The passenger is not.” .
Where has Adnan taken the form of the novel, as a poet of many countries and languages? She has chosen place for character. She has chosen Paris, all of Paris. Her gaze penetrates the beauty and limitations. She does not ignore Paris as “the heart of a lingering colonial power.” She has taken the reader not only to the streets of Paris, but to the skies, and to the passing thoughts of the relocated Parisian who writes through circumstances, concerns, observations.
“Some rare evenings, the glow is so strong that pink hue, an after hue, an illumination made of color and fire, seeps between the buildings, these evenings which are an illumination for the whole body, not only the eyes.” .
That no other persons come into focus for more than a moment creates an experimental cinematic sense of the city. We are lured toward not merely a visual surface but a detailed map of luminosities and gravities