This translator and writer, known as Adonis, is “one of the greatest living Arab poets”, and was born on January 1, 1930 at Qassabine in Syria. His family was a humble one; however, when he was only seventeen, he published a poem signed with the pseudonym Adonis (after the Phonecian God of plant rebirth) and he continued to use this pen-name all his life.
Over his life he has won numerous literary prizes, in France, Italy, Turkey and Lebanon. Now 84, this old master of modern Arab poetry has been writing for almost 70 years, and still insists in following a rebellious path. Today, he has already been exiled from his country for about 30 years,and is lecturing as a professor at the Sorbonne University and at the same time he is a member of UNESCO.
Pressenza: Adonis, poets are always singing the praises of peace. How can anyone sing about peace in your country?
Adonis. We just keep on singing. It is necessary to continue singing about peace. The very word poetry means peace. Poetry should not just be an instrument used by us to convey messages. Poetry must never become a kind of preaching. It sings out, just like a flower sings about its own perfume. Like love, poetry is the song of life, of the heart, of one’s own body.
P. In the speech you gave last January in Geneva at the International Conference for a Democratic Syria, you underlined the necessity that goals be in line with the means that are being used to reach them. Can you explain this more clearly?
A. One cannot create enemies in the name of Love. Therefore, if a goal is a human one, the means with which it is reached must be a humane one. There must be no separation between objectives and means. That’s a deformation created by politics, self-interest and the economic powers themselves. No goal can ever justify violence!
P. By what means do you hope that the Syrian problem may find a solution?
A. I totally criticize the completely sclerotic Islamic religious system which has prevailed everywhere. There’s no acknowledgement of diversity, of otherness.
How can progress be attained in a society based on discrimination, within which politics and religion are tightly interwoven? It’s the exact contrary of the very idea of revolution. The theme of revolution itself is being totally diverted and deviated. The so-called revolutionaries are organically tied up with politics being made abroad. What my nation really needs is a lay, non-violent revolution.
New horizons would then open wide and respect for human life would be placed right at the centre of everything. Men would then get their freedom back. All what’s going on today in Syria is in fact a non-revolutionary revolution. What the opposition and the régime are both doing is acting on the self-same side of the slate.
Islam excludes people, and does not recognize whatever or whoever opposes its beliefs. In Syria the rights of man do not exist, and never will, until a deep furrow is traced between State and Religion. Today, it is evident that no Christian can ever rise to power in Syria, or ever attain the same rights as a Muslim. Do do you think this is normal?
It is an absurd society. At present, any concept of tolerance is out of the question. The country doesn’t even have a constitution of its own. The problem we are facing today is the total exclusion of the people from what’s important .
In this situation, France continues maintaining an all too prudent attitude and, and USA does nothing but cheer. Is it conceivable that any country can be allied with a nation like Syria, that doesn’t even have a constitution? The religious memory, the conflict between Arabs and Jews… we are faced with the same strange amalgamation that is present in many countries. There is no logic in all this, or anything ethical about it either!
P. Adonis, what would you like to say to all those who are reading this article?
A. We have an absolute need of each other. A total one. I have to take care of other human beings. They are fundamentally important to me. Their interests go before mine. We must use this kind of attitude. We must take care: We must perceive how lies and falsehood are flourishing all around us, interfering with us and overwhelming us. Our daily life-style is also our culture: we have to pay attention to everything that’s circulating, specially ideas: We must be vigilant, and take care. I am optimistic about what will happen over a long period of time. Human beings can be really really incredible! But we are living through a difficult moment today, a very difficult one. I have no special message I want to give you. I just hope that everyone can seek deep inside, for that’s where our personal truth is to be found.
Didn’t someone once tell us: “I am walking towards myself and everything else is reaching out towards me on my path”
Translation by Francesca Piatti.