November 28, 2014 / 5:03 PM / 4 years ago

Prominent Lebanese poet Akl dies at over 100 years old

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Said Akl, one of Lebanon’s most prominent 20th-century poets, died on Friday at over 100 years of age.

Born in the eastern town of Zahle in 1912, Akl published his first play in his early 20s and went on to write epics, poetry and lyrics including pieces performed by Lebanese singer Fayrouz, who once called him “the voice of the glory of Lebanon.”

He sparked debate with the idea that colloquial Lebanese Arabic should be seen as a separate language to the more formal Arabic commonly used in literature. He saw Lebanese as equally worthy and proposed using a 37-character Latin alphabet to write it instead of Arabic script.

He courted controversy with some of his political views, such as when he criticized the presence of armed Palestinian groups in Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war and said he backed the Israeli army fighting them.

On Friday Lebanese figures paid tribute to Akl, who worked into his old age.

“Said Akl was a great poet who gave Arabic poetry and the classical Arabic language treasures,” Lebanese poet Zahi Wehbe told Reuters. “We might disagree with him, but we do not disagree about him - about his poetic status.”

Reporting by Laila Bassam; editing by Andrew Roche

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