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Ali Ahmad Said Asbar (better known as Adonis) was born in al-Qassabin, Syria, in 1930. As a child, his father encouraged him to memorise poetry. He began to write his own poems and in 1947 he gave a recitation for the Syrian president, Shukri al-Kuwatli, which led to a series of scholarships, including a place at Damascus University where he graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1954.

The following year he was imprisoned for six months for belonging to the Syrian National Party. He then moved to Beirut where, along with fellow poet Yusuf al-Khal, he founded a poetry magazine, Shi'r. In 1968 he founded the avant-garde magazine, Mawaqif (Situations).

1960-1961: Studied in Paris
1970-1985: Professor of Arabic literature, University of Lebanon
1976: Visiting professor, University of Damascus
1980: Moved to Paris to escape the Lebanese civil war
1980-1981: Professor of Arabic at the Sorbonne, Paris

He is often tipped as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Works by Adonis

If Only the Sea Could Sleep 
; amazon.co.uk

The Pages of Day and Night 
amazon.com; amazon.co.uk

A Time Between Ashes And Roses 
amazon.com; amazon.co.uk

An Introduction to Arab Poetics 
amazon.com; amazon.co.uk

Sufism and Surrealism 
amazon.com; amazon.co.uk

Poems on line

Songs of Mihyar the Damascene 
(Cornell University)

Take me to God  
(Cornell University)

Tahiyyah ila Baghdad - A Salute to Baghdad  
al-Quds al-Arabi, 1 April 2003 (in Arabic)


Biographical essay 
By Kamal Abu-Deeb, from the Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (Routledge, 1998).

Adonis Indicts Arabic Poetry, Past and Present  
By Elie Chalala (al-Jadid, Vol 2, No 3, January 1996)

Adonis - a poet responds  
Etel Adnan, a Lebanese-American poet and novelist, takes issue with Adonis.
(al-Jadid, Vol 2 No 4, February 1996)

A life on public view 
David Tresilian discusses an exhibition in Paris paying tribute to Adonis (al-Ahram Weekly, 11 January 2001)

Beyond the East/West: towards a culture of the future 
A talk delivered by Adonis at Dartmouth College, 9 May 2001

An Arab Surrealist 
By Robert Irwin (The Nation, 3 January 2005)

An Arab Poet Who Dares to Differ  
New York Times, July 13, 2002

Nass Ghayr Manshur 'An Ziyarah Wahidah ila Baghdad, 1969 
al-Hayat, 15 May 2003 (Arabic, PDF)

Syrian poet Adonis seen as Nobel Prize frontrunner  
Reuters, October 1, 2003

Adonis & Beirut  
al-Hayat, November 8, 2003 (Arabic, PDF)


Featured writers


In the literature section




At times, Adonis's poetry is both revolutionary and anarchic; at other times, it approaches the mystical. - Kamal Abu-Deeb

One of the greatest poets in Arabic literature, he is also something of an iconoclast. His prose writings have aroused much controversy in the Arab world, particularly his views on the Arab heritage. There can be no doubt as to the influence of his ideas about innovation and modernity on a whole generation of poets. Equally important is the leading role he played in revolutionising poetic language, imagery, and approach. 


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Last revised on 04 August, 2015