Ali Ahmad Said Esber, known as Adonis
Ali Ahmad Said Esber was born in Qassabine near Latakia in northern Syria on January 1, 1930, to an Alawite family. He starts working in the fields early, but his father also encourages him to learn poetry. He was educated at the French lycée of Tartous in 1942. In 1947, against the advice of his parents, he went to the nearby city where he found Syrian President Choukri al-Kouwatli. Saïd, then 17, wants to join the assembly of local poets to honor the president, but it departs. By insisting he captures the attention of the latter, who asks to hear it. The president then decides to pay for his studies1. He graduated from Latakia in 1949. It was also at this time that he took the pseudonym Adonis when publishing some poems. He then entered the Syrian University of Damascus, leaving in 1954 with a degree in philosophy.In 1955, he was jailed for six months for belonging to the Syrian Nationalist Party, which advocated a great Syrian nation in the Middle East. After his release in 1956, he fled to Beirut in Lebanon where he founded with the Syrian-Lebanese poet Youssouf al-Khal in the 1960s, the magazine Chi’r (or Chiir which means “Poetry”): the manifesto of an unconditional liberation from tradition and a drive towards the internationalization of poetry. He obtained Lebanese nationality in 1962. Adonis also devotes himself more to his literary activities than to his political activities. In 1968, he founded the magazine Mawakif (“Positions”) – immediately banned in the Arab world – which turns out to be a space of freedom at the same time as a laboratory of “destructuring” renovation of poetry. It is there that he translates into Arabic Baudelaire, Henri Michaux, Saint-John Perse and French Aboul Ala El-Maari. Adonis seeks the renewal of contemporary Arabic poetry based on his glorious past but also looking at the richness of Western poetry. Following the Lebanese civil war, he fled Lebanon in 1980 to take refuge in Paris from 1985. He is the representative of the Arab League at UNESCO. He is today considered one of the greatest living Arab poets. He is an influential, even iconoclastic, autodidact of the critical revaluation of the Arab poetic tradition vis-à-vis the intellectual, political and religious pressures of the present-day Arab world, the most striking example being Prayer and the Sword. His work reveals several themes: injustice, dictatorship, war, misery … He seizes contemporary events to make myths, without becoming a “committed poet”. The Time of the cities shows an exacerbated knowledge of the big cities of the modern Arab world. He took a stand in Al-Hayat against the wearing of the veil. In 2011, he sells his archives to IMEC3.