Syrian poet Adonis denounces religious fanaticism

Sunday 02/10/2016

Gothenburg - Syrian poet Adonis, whose name surfaces regularly as a top contender for the Nobel Literature Prize, said religious fanaticism is “destroying the heart of the Arab world” but sees salvation in poetry.

The 86-year-old lives in exile and is equally scathing about the West’s role in the conflict in his home­land, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives over five years.

“The Americans are not look­ing for solutions; they are seeking problems,” he said during an inter­view at the Gothenburg Book Fair.

“The Americans do not have a coherent vision. Neither do the Russians, who are only driven by self-interest. The Arab world is strategic, an area of riches, and the Arab people are just a means” to oil wealth, he said

The poet, who is Alawite, the sect to which Syrian President Bashar Assad belongs, wrote to the leader in 2011 calling for a democratic transition.

Now he sees hope in poetry.

“Poetry cannot slit a child’s throat nor kill a man or destroy a museum,” said Adonis, whose real name is Ali Ahmad Said Esber.

Calling for a separation between the state and religion, he said po­ets could play an important role in bringing this about.

“The future lies in secularism,” he said. “I had said one cannot stage a secular revolution with people emerging from the mosque to demonstrate. A revolution is one thing and the mosque another.”

Adonis said poetry would never be stifled.

“As long as death is there — and death exists — there will be poetry,” he said. “Poetry will never be si­lenced.”

Adonis, who is also an acclaimed critic, painter and essayist, moved to Paris in 1985 and has been named a commander of France’s Order of Arts and Letters. He was heavily tipped to the Nobel Litera­ture Prize winner in the year of the “Arab spring” in 2011.

His name frequently comes up in the annual run-up to the top liter­ary award but it has eluded him. The 2016 Nobel Literature Prize is scheduled to be announced Octo­ber 13th.

Born to a farming family and with no formal schooling in his early years, Adonis has come a long way from the poor western Syrian vil­lage where he spent his childhood.

“I’d never seen a car, electricity or a telephone till I was 13. I always ask myself how I was transformed into this other person. It was al­most miraculous,” he had said in an interview a few years ago.

(Agence France-Presse)