Poet and Arabic literature teacher
Born in 1930 in Syria as Alī Aḥmad Saʿīd Aṣbar, into a fellahin family. During a meeting with readers during the 2nd Czesław Miłosz Festival (2011) he emphasised, however, that the problem of identity is not connected with nationality or geographical origins for him.
Adonis studied philosophy at the Syrian University (now Damascus University). In 1959, he moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where he became associated with a group of young poets editing Shi’r (Poetry), a poetry magazine. He was involved with the renewal of Arabic poetry, both in practice as a poet, as well as in theory, writing academic papers on the subject. He received his doctorate and habilitation, published a three-volume work on the analysis of the transformation of Arabic literature, and taught at Lebanese universities. In the 1980s, he became a representative of the Arab League to UNESCO in Paris, where he lives to this day.
He is an outstanding specialist in the field of Arabic literature, which he taught at the Sorbonne, the Collège de France, as well as universities in Geneva, Berlin and Princeton. He engaged in literary work with equal intensity. He has published twenty-three volumes of poetry and eighteen collections of essays. He is also the author and publisher of an Arabic poetry anthology. He has been honoured with over thirty notable literary awards; the list includes French, Italian, German, Macedonian, Turkish, Lebanese and even Chinese distinction.
His work has been translated into French, English, German, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Portuguese and Chinese. To date, the only selection of Adonis’ poetry, titled Adonis: Rycerz dziwnych słów [Adonis: The Knight of Strange Words], consisting of poems selected and translated by Krystyna Skarżyńska-Bocheńska, was published in 1994. Adonis himself has translated the works of Ovid, Racine and Saint-John Perse into Arabic. In 2000, the first of nine (to date) exhibitions of collages created by the outstanding artist took place.