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Andrée Chédid (1920 - 2011)

Author, Poet and Exemplary Grandmother

Andree Chédid was born in Cairo on the 20th of March 1920. Her paternal grandfather, Count Khalil de Saab had left Lebanon at the end of the nineteenth century to settle in Egypt. Her parents, Salim Saab and Alice Khoury Helou, both originally from Baabda in the southern Metn were separated. They decided to send Andrée to boarding school at the age of ten to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart College in Cairo. At the age of fourteen she left for Europe to continue her secondary schooling and then returned to Cairo to attend the American University there.

She published her first poems in English at the age of eighteen under the pseudonym of A. Lake. She was married in 1942 to a Lebanese doctor, Professor Louis Chédid. They lived in Lebanon at first but left in 1946 to settle in Paris for good. There, Louis Chédid worked for the French national centre for scientific research, the CNRS. They had two children, Michele and Louis.

An article about the Chedids that appeared in the Nouvel Observateur ran under the title of “The Chedids: a Golden Family”. The article spoke of the creative talent of that family: Andrée's writing, her son Louis' composing and musical interpretation and her grandson Matthieu's (M) success with the younger Francophile generation as a very popular singer. Andree Chédid wrote the lyrics for one of his greatest hits, Je dis aime; her words carried an emotive and crucial message for the world we live in. A grandson setting his grandmother's poetry to music: it was just the sort of bridge between generations that Andrée had wanted to establish.

Filled with a deep faith in humanity and much hope, Andrée's work is an unremitting questioning of the human condition and of how humanity has evolved through the clashes of civilizations in the Mediterranean basin. Her work is sensually evocative of the Orient and its flavors and most of her novels are set in Lebanon. She has also written extensively of the war that tore her country apart.

Her first two publications were collections of poetry written in English. Heart on Holiday was published in 1943 in Cairo and On the Trails of my Fancy appeared in Beirut in 1945. Her subsequent works were both written and published in French. Andrée Chédid is a prominent figure in the contemporary French literary world. The novelist, playwright, author and poet has received a number of literary awards including the Prix Goncourt for short stories, the Grand Prix de la Societé des Gens de Lettres, the Prix Louise Labé, the Prix Mallarmé and the Prix Goncourt for poetry in 2003.

2009 - Grand Officier de la Légion d'honneur.
2011 - She died on 6 February 2011 in Paris at the age of 91.

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She is the author of:

Textes pour une Figure (poems) (Pré aux Clercs, Paris, 1949)
Textes pour un poème (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1950)
Le Sommeil Délivré (novel), 1952; (republished by Flammarion, Paris, 1975)
Textes pour le Vivant, (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1953)
Jonathan (novel), (Seuil, Paris, 1955)
Texte pour la Terre Aimée (poems) GLM, Paris, 1955)
Terre et Poésie (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1956)
Terre Regardée (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1960)
Seul le Visage (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1960)
Le Sixième Jour (novel), 1960; (republished by Flammarion, Paris, 1972 et 1985, brought to the screen by Youssef Chahine 1986)
Lubies (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1962)
Le Survivant (novel), 1963; (republished by Flammarion, Paris, 1982)
Double Pays, (poems), (GLM, Paris, 1965, (Prix Louise Labé, 1966)
Contre-chant (poems) (Flammarion, Paris, 1968)
L'autre (novel), (Flammarion, Paris, 1969)
La Cité Fertile (novel), (Flammarion, Paris, 1972)
Visage Premier (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1972)
Fêtes et Lubies (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1973)
Prendre Corps (poems), (G.L.M., Paris, 1973)
Néfertiti et le Rêve d'Akhnaton (novel), (Flammarion, Paris, 1974)
Fraternité de la Parole (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1975. (Prix Mallarmé in 1976)
Cérémonial de la Violence (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1976)
Le Cœur et le Temps (tales), (L'Ecole des Loisirs, Paris, 1976)
Cavernes et Soleils (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1979)
Les Corps et le Temps followed by l'Etroite Peau (short stories), (Flammarion, Paris, 1979)
Lubies (tales), (L'Ecole des Loisirs, Paris, 1979)
Bérénice d'Egypte (play); Les Nombres (play); Le Montreur (play), (Flammarion, Paris, 1981)
L'Autre (tales), (Père Castor-Flammarion, Paris, 1981, brought to the screen by Bernard Giraudeau, 1990)
Le Coeur Suspendu (tales), (Casterman, Paris, 1981)
Les Marches de Sable (novel), (Flammarion, Paris, 1981)
Mon Ami, Mon Frère (tales), (Casterman, Paris, 1982)
Epreuves du Vivant (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1983)
L'Etrange Mariée (tales), (Le Sorbier, Paris, 1983)
Derrière les Visages (tales), (Père Castor-Flammarion, Paris, 1984)
Grammaire en Fête (tales), (Folle avoine, Paris, 1984)
La Maison sans Racines (novel), (Flammarion, Paris, 1985)
Le Survivant (tales), (Père Castor-Flammarion, Paris, 1987. Textes pour un Poème (poems) Flammarion, Paris, 1987)
Les Manèges de la Vie (tales), (Flammarion, Paris, 1989)
L'enfant multiple (tales), 1989, (J'ai lu, Paris, 1991)
Poèmes pour un Texte (poems), (Flammarion, Paris, 1991)
A la Vie, à la Mort (novel), (Flammarion, Paris, 1992)
La Femme de Job (novel), (Calmann Levy, 1993)
Echec à la Reine (play) (Flammarion, 1993)
Le Personnage (play) (Flammarion, 1993)
La Femme en Rouge et Autre Nouvelles (novel), (J'ai lu, 1994)
Le Liban (essay), (Seuil)
Guy Levis-Mano (essay), (Poètes d'aujourd'hui, Seghers)
Les Métamorphoses de Batine (tales), (Père Castor, 1994)
Par-delà les Mots, (poems) (Flammarion, 1995)
Le Dernier Candidat (play) (Art et Comédie, 1998)
Territoires du Souffle (poems) (Flammarion, 1999)
Le Message (novel) (Flammarion, 2000)
Rythmes (poems) (Gallimard, 2003)
Grammaire en Fête (poems) (Folle Avoine, 2003)
Poursuites (poems) (Alternatives, 2004)
Racines et Liberté (poems) (L'Harmattan, 2004)
Entre Nil et Seine: Entretiens avec Brigitte Kernel (interviews with Brigitte Kernel, 2005)
Vitesse de la lumière - Instantanés (illustrated volume by Christian Broutin). A Bibliography by Roger E. Stoddard (Paris: Librairie Benoît Forgeot, 2006)

Extracts of Poems:

The Final Poem

A forge burns in my heart.
I am redder than dawn,
Deeper than seaweed,
More distant than gulls,
More hollow than wells.
But I only give birth
To seeds and to shells.

My tongue becomes tangled in words:
I no longer speak white,
Nor utter black,
Nor whisper gray of a wind-worn cliff,
Barely do I glimpse a swallow,
A shadow's brief glimmer,
Or guess at an iris.

Where are the words,
The undying fire,
The final poem?
The source of life?

The Voice

Where is the distant voice
That speaks like my soul?

Buried beneath daylight's clamor
Gold and the seasons

Beneath groaning streets
And the ferment of cities

In my grave of care
And blond laughter
In what bare tomb must I lie
To summon the voice
That speaks like my soul?

The Ever-Patient Woman

In the flowing sap
In her growing fever
Parting her veils
Cracking out of her shells
Sliding out of her skins

The ever-patient woman
Slowly
gives herself
life

In her volcanoes
In her orchards
Seeking solidity and measure
Clasping her most tender flesh
Straining every fine-honed fiber

The ever-patient woman
Slowly
gives herself
light.

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