I lost a friend

camilleVery few are familiar with the name of Camille Aboussouan although it echoed with tunes of high education, artistic sense, love of culture and philanthropy.

Camille Aboussouan carved his path with class and knowledge.

First and in 1944, he organized with a group of friends “The Persians by Aeschylus” play in the temple of Bacchus in Baalbeck, taking the role of Coryphaeus himself, thereby laying the foundations of what would be eight years later the Baalbeck International Festival.

He later  founded the PEN Club of Lebanon along with 24 writers. In the same year, he established the cultural magazine “Les Cahiers de l’Est” gathering the essays of the key personalities from the cultural scene. The publication was a tremendous success which was worthy of the French Academy Award in 1948.Camille Aboussouan was the ambassador of Lebanon to UNESCO between 1953 and 1972.

Moreover, he and a bunch of other people; enthusiastic about culture of Lebanon, founded APSAD “Association for the Protection of sites and old houses in Lebanon” in order to protect the natural and cultural heritage of Lebanon. To him, construction had two faces; human and earth. His work was two faced as well; he strived to fight against addiction and various social problems, at the same time he believed in the beauty of earth and nature and persevered to conserve them. When human treasures and natural graces are protected, ideal duality emerges.

A big intellectual, he had one of the largest worldwide libraries with a collection of books, prints and sculptures dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Among his generous donations, was a portion of the library bequeathed to Robert Mouawad Museum; it included a Koran printed in Hamburg in 1692, a large polyglot Bible, the trip to Beirut Lamartine wrote… He also offered his Oriental Archaeology (nearly 1400 pieces) in 2000 to the Museum of Fine Arts in Agen, the third largest Museum in France in the field of oriental archaeology after the Louvre and the Museum Lyon. Aboussouan started to acquire objects on the art market, mainly from Lebanon, Syria and ancient Mesopotamia from a very young age. This collection marked by the double origin of the donor (French by her mother, a native of Fleurance in the Gers, and Lebanese father), recalls the historical ties between the East and the West.

In 1956, he published the first French translation of “The Prophet” by Gibran Khalil Gibran.
Elected curator of the Museum of Art Nicolas Sursock, he organized 43 exhibitions including the discovery of the icons of the quadrilateral Arabic inscriptions Syro-Mesopotamian – post-Byzantine art – known since under the name “Melkite icons.”

Camille Aboussouan was my friend. I interviewed him years ago; he wrote the foreword of one of my books.

Almost one century old, he remained the young and dynamic Master of discussion. Camille left us at the age of 93. He lived long enough to witness-with pain- from his Parisian exile the fall of what he always incarnated: the values of our beloved Lebanon.
Goodbye Camille; greetings to your friends Alia El Solh, Raymond Eddé, Juliana Seraphim and Khalil El Khoury. They are dearly missed.


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