Investigations | 27 Oct 2014

The attention of many Syrians on Thursday turned to the city of Stockholm, Sweden. They were, uncharacteristically these days, not seeking asylum; but were, rather, participating in the event in which the name of the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was to be announced. Their gaze was squarely focused on the Syrian poet Adonis, one of the candidates for the prize.

Syrians differed again, this time, whether Adonis was indeed eligibile to the award or not. The controversy continued, even after the announcement of French writer Patrick Modiano as the winner; with some congratulating Modiano and mocking Adonis, while others were on the opposite side.

Syrians’ differences, discussions, and arguments filled the different social networking sites, with Syrian journalist Ibrahim Jabin writing on his Facebook page: "Who was it thta nominated the sectarian, extreme right-wing writer Adonis for the Nobel Prize?" he sneered, adding: "was it State Security, headed by Ali Mamlouk? Or was it Air Force Intelligence headed by Jamil Hassan? Or perhaps it was the Department of World Cultures at the Presidential Palace under [Presidential Advisor] Bouthaina Shaaban?"

Another mockingly asked: "Let us forget his position vis-à-vis the revolution, and consider it the ramblings of a prematurely senile old man… But answer me this: who of you can truly read Adonis’ poems and enjoy them?"

On the opposite end, Syrian scenarist Samer Fahed Radwan said: "The tiny wanna-be-writers of the revolution with their shady literary consciences and imaginary influence, are casting their ignorance on an innovative Syrian master like Adonis."

Radwan went on to say: "Disagreeing with his position from the revolution is one thing, and being castrated to the degree of discarding the beauty he has been able to accomplish amid the ugliness of pretenders, is something totally different."

Radwan’s position dovetailed with of Syrian poet Hani Nadim, who wrote on his Facebook page: "By the way… I know more than ten people gloating over Adonis today, who were willing to be run over—and even to run others over—merely to have their picture taken with him, in the past." 

Adonis: A Brief Biography

Ali Ahmad Said Esber, known as Adonis, is a Syrian poet born in 1930 in the village of Qassabin in the Jableh district, Syria. He adopted the name of the Canaanite/Phoenician god "Adonis" as his pen name.

He graduated from the University of Damascus with a degree in philosophy in 1954, leaving Syria to Lebanon in 1956, where he met with Lebanese poet "Yusuf al-Khal." Together, they issued "Shi’r” [Poetry] magazine in early 1957, then "Mawaqif” [Positions] magazine issued between 1969 and 1994.

Adonis, in 1973, also received a doctorate in literature from the Lebanese University, in addition to a number of other international awards and honorific titles. His works have been translated into 13 languages, and he has been nominated by critics and some cultural organizations to the Nobel Prize for literature for several times now.

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