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Seeger Adrianus Bonebakker

Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Emeritus

Los Angeles



Professor Seeger A. Bonebakker, who died in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on November 19, 2005, began teaching at UCLA in the fall of 1969 as Professor of Arabic and retired in June 1991.


A native of Holland, Professor Bonebakker began teaching at the University of Leiden, from which he had received a doctorate degree in 1956. He taught there until 1960, when he moved to Columbia University in New York before coming to UCLA in 1969.


Professor Bonebakker specialized in the development of classical Arabic literature, particularly the adab tradition, including rhetorical theory, poetry, prose narrative, literary criticism, and biography. His edition of the Kitab Naqd al-Shi‘r of Qudama ibn Ja‘far, was published in 1956 and remains an essential reference for anyone studying the development of classical Arabic poetry. In 1984 he published a biographical study entitled Hatimi and His Encounter with Mutanabbi. Over the years Professor Bonebakker contributed 18 articles to the second edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam and two chapters to the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature’s volume Abbasid Belles Lettres.


As a teacher, Professor Bonebakker helped train a generation of UCLA Arabists, who cherish the memory of his affection for students, his modesty, and his self-effacing manner – in addition to the value of his lectures and the high standard of scholarship that he set. He and his wife, Lita, often entertained students at their home in Westwood. Students in his bibliography classes were given the opportunity to handle first editions of Arabic books from his extensive personal library. As a token of his interest in passing on the tradition of Arabic scholarship, toward the end of his career at UCLA he collaborated on an annotated Reader of Classical Arabic Literature designed to introduce beginners to passages of Arabic prose and poetry rarely anthologized which he thought would be immediately appreciated by students with even a small knowledge of the language.


An accomplished cellist, Professor Bonebakker often played with UCLA’s Near Eastern Music Ensemble. Something of Holland that remained with him through all his years in the United States was his habit of bicycling to and from UCLA.


The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures remembers him with affection and is deeply saddened by his passing.


Herbert Davidson

Michael Fishbein

Ismail Poonawala

Yona Sabar