al-Ḥājj, Unsī (1937–2014) By Badini, Dounia Abourachid
Unsī al-Ḥājj (1937–2014) was a Lebanese poet largely recognized as the pioneer of Arabic prose poems (qaṣīdat al-nathr) thanks to his renowned but controversial first collection, Lan (1960), as well as one of the major contributors to the modernist poetry magazine Shi ͑r (1957–1970) which is considered a turning point in the history of modern Arabic poetry. He was also a veteran journalist, a job that he carried on for half a century. His name is especially associated (from 1956 to 2003) with the al-Nahār newspaper, where he started to work in 1956, and of which he was editor-in-chief from 1992 until his resignation in 2003. He published six collections of poetry, three volumes of chronicles (Kalimāt), and two volumes of aphorisms (Khawātim). He also translated into Arabic contemporary French poets and several plays performed by Lebanese experimental theatre troupes. He was a major protagonist of Lebanese intellectual life, maintaining a special relationship with celebrated artists such as Fayrūz and the Raḥbānī brothers, and also with famed painters and stage directors. For a whole generation of Arab poets and writers, he is an emblem of Arab modernity and an authentic school of liberal thought.