Joyce Mansour was born Joyce Patricia Adès in Bowden, England, in 1928 to a Jewish family of Syrian descent. When she was still an infant, her family moved to Egypt. She suffered through the loss of her mother to cancer at fifteen years old and the death of her first husband just six months into their marriage, when she was eighteen. Mansour studied in England, Egypt, and Switzerland. She learned to speak and write in French when she married her second husband, a Francophone Egyptian. She and her husband moved often between Paris and Cairo, but shortly after the Suez Crisis and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rise to power, Mansour was exiled to Paris, where she permanently settled.
Mansour has authored sixteen books of poetry, as well as prose works and plays, including Cris [Screams] (Seghers, 1953), her first book of poetry; Faire signe au machinist (Le soleil noir, 1977); and Trous noirs [Black Holes] (La pierre d’Alun, 1986). Many of her works have been translated into English and collected, most recently in Emerald Wounds: Selected Poems (City Lights Publishers, 2023), translated by Emilie Moorhouse; Essential Poems and Writings of Joyce Mansour (Commonwealth Books, 2008), translated by Serge Gavronsky; and Birds of Prey: Rapaces (Perivale Press, 1979), translated by Albert Herzing.
Mansour was part of the inner circle of Surrealists and a close friend of André Breton, the cofounder of both Paris Dada and Surrealism. Breton’s portrait of Mansour continues to be on display in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Joyce Mansour died on August 27, 1986, in Paris.