Lebanon lost a luminous literary voice Wednesday, when award-winning author of children’s books and short novels Emily Nasrallah passed away at the age of 87.
Nasrallah was a writer, a women's rights activist and a mother of four. Born in 1931 in Kfeir, a town in south Lebanon’s Hasbaya, she went on to study at the American University of Beirut, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Education in 1958.
She first gained recognition for her writing in 1962, after publishing her first book “Touyour Ayloul” (“Birds of September”), which garnered three awards.
Nasrallah also won a Fairuz Magazine Prize for Outstanding Literary Works and a prestigious Khalil Gibran award.
She tackled themes that were locally relevant and timely, such as women’s struggles for self-expression and independence, and the enduring effects of the Lebanese Civil War, which broke out in 1975.
In “Yawmiyat Hirr” (“A Cat's Diary”), Nasrallah depicts the impact of the war through the diary of a cat abandoned by its family, who had fled the fighting. The book, which was published in 1998, went on to win a LIBBY Children's Book Prize.
Just last month, President Michel Aoun bestowed on Nasrallah the Commander medal of the National Order of the Cedar – the third rank of Lebanon’s highest honor – to recognize her contribution.
Justice Minister Salim Jreisati handed Nasrallah the medal at her residence in Hamra, rather than at the presidential palace, as is customary. At the time, local media attributed the measure to her “delicate health condition.”
Her funeral will be held in Zahle Thursday, local media outlets reported.
After news of the author’s death emerged, many Lebanese – including the country’s top officials – took to social media to express their condolences and to commemorate Nasrallah’s life and works.
“Today, Lebanon and the Arab world has lost a ... literary icon, a [symbol] of Lebanese creativity, and a women's rights activist who added intellectual value to our country,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri wrote in a statement posted to his official Twitter account.
Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury also expressed his condolences to Nasrallah's family, noting that with her death Lebanon had lost "an honorable female front" that had contributed to the country’s history of culture, literature and activism.
"Emily Nasrallah will remain in everyone's memory through her unique literary heritage," Ghattas was quoted as saying by the state-run National News Agency.