Syrian poet Adonis denounces religious fanaticism
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.