Feature: Syrian serial nominee for Nobel Prize finds new platform, passion in China

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-12 22:21:28|Editor: Xiang Bo
Video PlayerClose

SHANGHAI, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- A cruise ship carrying poets from various countries was sailing on the Huangpu River on Tuesday night when the first Golden Magnolia Award of the Shanghai International Poetry Festival was announced aboard.

The winning poet was Ali Ahmad Said Esber, better known by his pen name Adonis or Adunis, 87, from Syria. The poet, who composes his poems in Arabic, narrowly missed winning the Nobel Prize in Literature again several days ago.

Adonis's influence on Arabic poetry could well match that of Ezra Pound's and T.S. Eliot's on English-language poetry, said the organizing committee of the festival.


Adonis was born in 1930 in a coastal village in western Syria, where his love and sorrow are rooted.

He gave himself the pen name when he was a middle-school student, as Adonis was described as an annually-renewed, ever-youthful,life-death-rebirth god in Greek mythology.

Born into a modest family, Adonis did farm work with his father, his first teacher who taught him to recite and write Arabic poems.

When he was 13 years old, then Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli visited his home village. Adonis volunteered to recite his own poem for the president. Touched by Adonis's talent, Quwatli immediately granted state aid for his schooling.

In 1956, Adonis left Syria for Beirut, capital of Lebanon. In the 1980s, he fled to Paris to escape conflicts in Lebanon.

Adonis often said that he had three "birthplaces" -- his home village, Beirut, and Paris, where he lives now.

Although far away from his home village, Adonis has continued to compose poems in Arabic, the only property of many displaced Arabs who lost their homes and farms.

"In his poems, he shows deep affection for his home village, motherland and humanity," the organizing committee of the festival commented.

Since 2012, the Middle East has been plunged into turmoil, including Syria, Adonis's war-torn motherland.

Adonis's mother often told him that her greatest desire was that he would stay at her side when she was dying. But Adonis could not return to Syria due to the war when his mother passed away years ago.


Adonis was among the favorites for this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. Although in the end he didn't win, his reputation in world literature has far from diminished.

Since 2005, Adonis has been ranked among the favorite contenders for the coveted Nobel Prize, and he almost won in 2016.

Speaking of his role as a "running mate" in the marathon-like Nobel race, the poet simply laughed, saying that winning the prize would not raise the value of a laureate's works, and failing to win also would not lower the value of a nominee's works.

In fact, Adonis appears to care more about his value as a poet than about any secular honor. He said that the value of a poet's existence was to change the image of the world.

As he wrote in one of his poems, "the world brings me wounds all over the body, but what grow out of the wounds are wings."


In China, the Syria-born poet has found a new platform, new passion and new inspiration as he makes new friends thanks to his poems.

In 2009, a collection of his poems was first translated into Chinese, and conquered the hearts of many Chinese readers with its explosive verses. It has become one of the best-selling foreign collections of poems in recent years.

Xue Qingguo, a professor at the Arabic Language Department of Beijing Foreign Studies University, has translated many of Adonis's poems.

Xue said that Adonis has the making of "a great poet," profound thought and courage to tell the truth.

"Comprehend the world like a child, love the world like a youth, and review the world like a senior," Zen said, commenting on Adonis' poems.

Aboard the cruise ship on the Huangpu River, a landmark waterway running through the metropolis of Shanghai in eastern China, Adonis compared the river to a "silk ribbon" that linked the "belly button of the East and lips of the West."