May Ziade (also written Ziadé, Ziyada or Ziadeh) (مي زيادة) (February 11, 1886. – 1941), was a prolific poet, essayist and translator.
A writer for Arab newspapers and periodicals, Ziade also wrote a number of poems and books. She was a key figure of the Nahda in the early 20th century Arab literary scene, and is known for being an "early Palestinian feminist" and "pioneer of Oriental feminism"."
Ziade was born in Nazareth in Palestine to a Lebanese Maronite father (from the Chahtoul family) and a Palestinian mother. Her father, Elias Ziade, was editor of al-Mahrūsah.
Ziade attended primary school in Nazareth. As her father came to the Kesrouan region of Lebanon, at 14 years of age she was sent to Aintoura to pursue her secondary studies at a French convent school for girls. Her studies in Aintoura had exposed her to French literature, and Romantic literature, to which she took a particular liking. She attended several Roman Catholic schools in Lebanon and in 1904, returned to Nazareth to be with her parents. She is reported to have published her first articles at age 16.
Journalism & Classical studies
In 1908, she and her family emigrated to Egypt. Her father founded "Al Mahroussah" newspaper while the family was in Egypt, to which Ziade contributed a number of articles.
Ziade was particularly interested in learning languages, studying privately at home and then at local university for a Modern Languages degree while in Egypt. As a result, Ziade had practical knowledge of Arabic, French, English, Italian, German, Spanish, Latin and Modern Greek. She graduated in 1917.
Key Arab literary figure
Ziade was well known in Arab literary circles, receiving many male and female writers and intellectuals at a literary salon she established in 1912. Among those that frequented the salon were Taha Hussein, Khalil Moutrane, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Antoun Gemayel, Walieddine Yakan, Abbas el-Akkad and Yacoub Sarrouf.
Though she had never married, from 1912 onward, she maintained an extensive written correspondence with Khalil Gibran. While they never met in person as he was living in New York City, the correspondence lasted 19 years until his death in 1931, and Ziade is credited with introducing his work to the Egyptian public.
Personal loss & depression
Between 1928 and 1931, Ziade suffered a series of personal losses, beginning with the death of her parents, her friends, and above all Khalil Gibran. She fell into a deep depression and returned to Lebanon where her relatives tried to place her in psychiatric hospital to gain control over her estate. Nawal El Saadawi submits that Ziade was sent to the hospital for expressing feminist sentiments. Ziade eventually recovered her lucidity and returned to Cairo where she died on October 17, 1941.
Ziade was deeply concerned with the emancipation of the Arab woman; a task to be effected first by tackling ignorance, and then anachronistic traditions. She considered women to be the basic elements of every human society and wrote that a woman enslaved could not breastfeed her children with her own milk when that milk smelled strongly of servitude.
She specified that female evolution towards equality need not be enacted at the expense of femininity, but rather that it was a parallel process. In 1921, she convened a conference under the heading, "La but de la vie" ("The goal of life"), where she called upon Arab women to aspire toward freedom, and to be open to the Occident without forgetting their Oriental identity.
Romanticism and Orientalism
Bearing a romantic streak from childhood, Ziade was successively influenced by Lamartine, Byron, Shelley, and finally Gibran. These influences are evident in the majority of her works. She often reflected on her nostalgia for Lebanon and her fertile, vibrant, sensitive imagination is as evident as her mystery, melancholy and despair.
Ziade's first published work, Fleurs de rêve (1911), was a volume of poetry, written in French, using the pen name of Isis Copia. She would occasionally write in French, English or Italian, though she increasingly found her literary voice in Arabic. She published works of criticism and biography, volumes of free-verse poetry and essays, and novels. She translated several European authors into Arabic, including Arthur Conan Doyle from English, 'Brada' (the Italian Contessa Henriette Consuelo di Puliga) from French, and Max Müller from German. She ran the most famous literary salon of the Arab world during the twenties and thirties in Cairo.
The titles of her works in Arabic (with English translation in brackets) include:
- Al Bâhithat el-Bâdiyat (Beginning Female Researchers)
- Sawâneh fatât (Platters of Crumbs)
- Zulumât wa Ichâ'ât (Humiliation and Rumors…)
- Kalimât wa Ichârât (Words and Signs)
- Al Saha'ef (The Newspapers)
- Ghayat Al-Hayât (The Meaning of Life)
- Al-Mûsawât (Equality)
- Bayna l-Jazri wa l-Madd (Between the Ebb and Flow)
In 1999, May Ziade was named by the Lebanese Minister of Culture as the personage of the year around which the annual celebration of "Beirut, cultural capital of the Arab world" would be held
This article incorporates text from the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.