Lebanese poet Ounsi al-Hage died on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 76.*
Al-Hage was born in 1937 in southern Lebanon, the son of Marie Akl and journalist and translator Louis al-Hage. The younger al-Hage began to publish his own short stories, essays, and poems in the mid-1950s, when he was still a high school student. After graduation, he worked as a journalist and contributed, with Youssef Khal and Adonis, to the establishment of the genre-changing poetry magazine Shi’r.
According to the author’s website, he published six collections of poetry and a book of essays, in addition to translating plays by Shakespeare, Ionesco, Camus, and Brecht into Arabic.
His poetry has been translated into a number of languages, and collections have come out in French and German. His work has also been translated to music.
From the poet’s website, an excerpt trans. Issa Boullatta:
Nothing has saved us, my sweetheart, but madness
When we jumped at the fresh loss
And met our shadows
And so, our darknesses illuminated us
And our laps became waves for the winds.
From 1992-2003, al-Hage was editor-in-chief of the Lebanese daily an-Nahar, and since 2006, he has been a leading columnist at al-Akhbar.
Al-Akhbar released a statement that said, in part:
Ounsi lit up our evenings with his glowing presence, his ever-lasting jokes, his witty sense of humor, and the critical eye of historic writers and professional journalists. Using his thought-provoking pen, he colored Al-Akhbar and added to it a sensitivity that we have always been proud of.
We will always be proud of what Ounsi al-Hajj left behind and his creativity from the 1950s when he helped in creating Beirut’s Golden Age through al-Shaar magazine, “Mulhak al thakafi”, an-Nahar newspaper… up until the peak of his career at Al-Akhbar.
Al-Akhbar has also changed the front page of their website to celebrate al-Hage’s life.
*This site, following Al-Akhbar, originally reported that al-Hage was 76 at his death. But Lebanese novelist and journalist Jana El Hassan corrects that al-Hage would have been 77 this summer.