Issa Joseph Boullata died peacefully on May 1, 2019 at the age of 90, surrounded by his children. He is now reunited with his beloved wife, the late Marita Seward Boullata.
A dedicated father and loving grandfather, he leaves behind his children Joseph (Laurel), Barbara, David (Sophie), and Peter, as well as grandchildren Christopher, Angela, Nicolas, and Vincent. Issa is survived as well by his brother Kamal (Lily), sister Souad Shammas, sisters in law Thérese and Annette. Siblings Renée, Jamil, and André predeceased him.
A distinguished literary scholar, translator, and professor, he will be missed by the many people whose lives he touched, the students, colleagues, readers and others who benefitted from his teaching and his cultural and academic accomplishments. Knowledge of a language is more than being instructed in its rules, it is an immersion into its culture and thought. This conviction is what made Issa a memorable and beloved educator.
Issa was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, on February 25, 1929. He obtained from the University of London a first class Bachelor of Arts in Arabic and Islamic studies in 1964 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Arabic literature in 1969. He taught Arabic at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut until 1975 when he became a professor at McGill University, teaching graduate courses in Arabic literature, Quranic studies, and modern Arab thought in the university’s Institute of Islamic Studies. Issa authored numerous scholarly books, articles, and book reviews as well as fiction, and was the notable translator of many works of poetry, fiction, memoir, and criticism. In 2014, he published a memoir of his early life entitled The Bells of Memory: A Palestinian Boyhood in Jerusalem.
Inspiration, introspection, and individuality defined Issa’s love for literature and life.