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Remembering Etel Adnan (1929-2021)

By Rena Rosenwasser Co-founder of Kelsey Street Press

My own connection to Etel, where to begin, perhaps the late eighties when I first met her and her partner Simone Fattal. The event was a Kelsey Street Press fundraiser, in those days we called them salons. They came to my house where Barbara Guest was to have a conversation with Kathleen Fraser.

Simone and Etel had already started The Post-Apollo Press in Sausalito where they resided.

When I met them at the Kelsey Street event, this glorious couple shone, albeit amongst a throng of Guest and Fraser fans. Within weeks Etel invited Barbara and myself over to her place to share a cake. I soon found that Etel and I shared not only a love of art, literature, and film but also patisserie.

When I think of Etel my impression is of a sage who offered us through writing and later art much to contemplate. She was a visionary who saw the brutality of the world up close, and took it to other dimensions with her volumes, Sitt Marie Rose (Post-Apollo Press, 1982), and The Arab Apocalypse (Post-Apollo Press, 2007).

Over the next twenty-five years the friendship between Simone and Etel and my spouse Penny and I grew. How we regaled each other over dinners at Sushi Ran and Chez Panisse! If not dining, how we measured the years with our convergences—events, mostly poetry, but also art and film. Two curious couples, coupled as all four of us were for a lifetime. Positioned as queer, outside the norms, but always on the side of art.

Etel and Simone eventually departed California for their residence on Rue Mme in Paris. They were living there when Etel offered Kelsey Street Press her manuscript, Premonition (2014). Written when she was well into her eighties, her voice shimmered, inviting us into her wise and paradoxical musings, opening with the observation, “There’s always a conductive thread through space for untenable positions. Now, with the book in my hands, I feel aloft with Etel.

View Premonition by Etel Adnan

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