Born in 1930 in the town of Al Qassabin, Syria, as Ali Ahmad Said Asbar, son of a fellach (farmer). He studied philosophy at Damascus University. In 1959 he moved to Beirut (Lebanon), where he formed ties with a group of young poets who were publishing “Shi’r” (“Poetry”). He worked to revitalize the Arabic language, both in practice (as a poet) and in theory, by writing academic texts on the subject. He has received a doctorate and a post-doctorate, published a three-volume work analyzing transformations in Arabic literature, and taught at Lebanese universities. In the 1980s he represented the Arab League at UNESCO in Paris, where he lives to this day.
Adonis is an outstanding figure in the field of Arabic literature, having lectured at the Sorbonne, the College de France, universities in Geneva and Berlin, and at Princeton. He has devoted himself with equal commitment to his own literary work. He has published twenty-three volumes of poetry and eighteen volumes of essays. He is also the author and publisher of an anthology of Arabic poetry. The list of important literary awards he has been given has thirty-odd entries; among them are French, Italian, German, Macedonian, Turkish, Lebanese, and even Chinese distinctions. His work has been translated into French, English, German, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Polish. Adonis himself has translated works by Ovid, Racine and Saint-John Perse into Arabic. The year 2000 saw the first of nine exhibitions (thus far) of collages made by this remarkable artist.