Approaching Adonis

  In March of this year, Professor Zhong Jikun, President of the Chinese Arabic Literature Research Association, invited us to attend the meeting of the Lebanese poet Adonis and the launch ceremony of the translation of his selected poems. We were a little hesitant at first, just as we were not interested in the poetry of the Chinese “avant-garde” poets, we paid little attention to the poetry of Adonis. At that time, the popular Lebanese poets were Gibran, Habib Thabit, the poetess Nadia Touwini… But Professor Zhong said: “Go ahead, it is an era of diversity, various genres We have each other’s strengths. Besides, Adonis has a great influence in the world…”
  In this way, we finally approached Adonis…
  Adonis’ original name was Ali Ahmed Isber, 1930 Born in the Alawi Mountains in northern Latakia, Syria. He was fond of literature since he was a child, and even before he was admitted to Damascus University to study philosophy at the age of 17, he began to publish poems under the pseudonym of Adonis.
  ”Adonis” (formerly translated Antonis) is a figure in Lebanese mythology and legends known to young and old. Legend has it that when he was hunting in the birthplace of a small river at the western foot of Mount Lebanon, he was unfortunately injured by a wild boar and fell by the river, and the river water was stained with blood. His lover Iztar rushed to hear the news, and Adonis had stopped breathing. Itztal was in pain, and even the flowers and trees by the river withered and withered. Itztar’s sincere and persistent love for his lover moved Hades, and he specifically allowed Adonis to return to the world to reunite with her every spring and summer. At this time, the flowers and trees in various places also turned from yellow to green, and they became full of vitality… This was the original and most charming interpretation of the natural phenomenon that the ancient people had on the return of winter to spring, the grass and trees withered and prospered, and the cycle began again and again. It is said that this legend originated from the two rivers and was later absorbed into Greek and Roman mythology. In the 1980s, when we were working in Lebanon, we visited the Adonis River, the source of this legend, and went upstream along the river bank to the Avka Cave, the source of the creek. On both sides of the river, the magnificent temples built in the Phoenician era to worship Adonis and Iztar have long been submerged by weeds. But so far, whenever the snow on Mount Lebanon first melts, the swollen river water is still rushing down the red soil on the bank, rolling down the red waves. It’s just that there are no longer women running along the river, crying and praying in temples; when the earth returns to spring and the mountains are in full bloom, women no longer gather here, singing and dancing with joy…
  It is said that Adonis initially signed the manuscript under his own name, and the newspaper did not publish a single one. Inspired by this legend, after he used “Adonis” as a pseudonym, his poems appeared in the newspapers again and again. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper wanted to meet the poet, but to his surprise, it was a teenage boy. Through the conversation, the editor-in-chief was finally convinced that he was not a fake. Adonis chose this pseudonym for his own meaning, as he declared in his poem: “I am still so I am/I am reborn every morning.” However, Adonis’s writing and life path were not smooth. Social-democratic party activities were arrested and jailed. After being released from prison the following year, he moved to Beirut, founded literary publications such as Poetry, and began his literary career, and gradually moved away from politics. In the 1960s, he studied in Paris, and after returning to Lebanon, he taught Arabic literature at the university and obtained a doctorate in literature. But since the mid-1970s, the war caused by sectarian conflict and foreign intervention forced him to go abroad again. Some call him a “poet in exile”, but as an “exile”, who knows the torment and pain in his heart! He said: “He fled from his people/When the darkness says ‘I am their earth, I am When the Mystery of the Earth’/What should he call a country/A country that no longer belongs to him, and that he leaves behind?” (The Condition of the Exile).
  Professor Zhong Jikun introduced that Adonis’s poems in his early years were mostly traditional Arabic metrical poems, which were later changed to free form, and “his poems are characterized by symbols, hazy, and a touch of Sufi mystery, often Let people ponder its profound philosophical connotations and become a representative of the contemporary Lebanese poetic avant-garde.” Sufism was originally a side branch of Islam in the early days. In the eyes of orthodox Muslims, Allah is supreme. The Sufis hold that “Allah is within”, that is, Allah exists in people’s hearts, “Mortals know themselves, so that they can know the Creator of Allah”. They believe that they can achieve spiritual sublimation through introspection, so as to use the perception and knowledge bestowed by Allah to inspire and persuade others, and to change the passive and submissive master-servant relationship between people and Allah into a relationship of respect and cognition. They do not pay attention to tedious teachings and canons, but focus on the interpretation of metaphors in the Koran, emphasizing nobleness, frugality, forbearance and fraternity. The original meaning of the word “Sufi” is “a person wearing a woolen sweater”. In the early days, Sufis were mostly ascetic monks wearing a thick woolen sweater. Later, the image of this ascetic monk became synonymous with this small sect. In today’s world, it may be hard to find a so-called “Sufi” religious sect, but its influence is still more or less accepted by non-realistic intellectuals.
  Adonis was wearing a dark half-old coat, a long orange scarf, and long gray hair, looking casual and free and easy. He is energetic, quick-witted, and has a humble smile. In casual chats and laughs, philosophical and speculative sentences are often blurted out of his mouth, flashing sparks of wisdom… Whether talking to him face-to-face or sitting in the audience, Listening to him recite his short chapters in a low and soothing tone, from the original text and the translation of Professor Xue Guoqing on the big screen, approaching this avant-garde poet who is well-known in Arabia and Europe, and comprehending the profound connotations of those verses, it is really true. It’s a peculiar feeling: “What is the road? / A declaration of departure / Written on a page of paper called dirt.” “What is old age? / The seedlings that grow in two directions: / The dawn of childhood / The death of Night.” “What is reality?/Sediment of the river of language.” “What is prayer?/Water of language/evaporated into a cloud in the sky.” “What is the afterlife?/The house we like to see/But not I would like to live in it.” … He does not pursue gorgeous words, because “I don’t want perfection, / The thoughts that burst out in my cries and sighs / do not need a chair.” From the original text, some poems Seemingly unrelated words are linked together, obscure, or as he puts it “you can only understand him dimly” because “the sun of meaning, sometimes/will be shaded by the shadow of the wall.” Adonis except keen In addition to poetry creation, he is also good at “collage” – a kind of modern art creation, which combines some wastes: paper, wood, feathers, stones… objects that seem irrelevant at first glance, in a special way. . He believes that poetic images are also fragmented, but that a master poet can combine them with a poetic framework. When we visit art exhibitions, we never stop in front of a “collage” art exhibit. We should thank Professor Xue Guoqing, whose translation helped us avoid the “shadow of the wall”.
  Due to other things, I was unable to participate in the interaction between the poet and the audience. It is a pity that I could not see how the “post-80s” and “post-90s” who participated in the meeting faced the poet. Fortunately, we brought back Adonis’ poem “My Loneliness is a Garden” signed by Adonis and Professor Xue Guoqing. When we asked Adonis to sign before the meeting, we said to him: “We have lived in Lebanon for many years, we are familiar with the legend of Adonis, and we have visited the Adonis River…” He said with a smile while writing on the title page. : “Then, you can see him and the river from these poems again.”
  In the evening, we turned to Adonis’s poetry selections. In the series “Siege”, we read that Adonis wrote in 1982 when Israel launched “Operation Litani” to invade Lebanon on a large scale, and the civil war in Lebanon continued to spread to the whole country. These poems during the spread, spread: “The road of blood / That was the blood the boy used to talk about–he whispered to his comrades: / In the sky, there are only / A few holes called stars…” “Killing changes the shape of the city/this stone, the head of a boy/this cloud of smoke, a human sigh/everything sings its own exile: an ocean of blood/to such a morning/except it floats in a nebula / Vessels in the slaughtered ocean / What else can you expect?” . We were sent to work in Lebanon from 1983 to 1987 when the war smoke was at its peak. In those years, like the people of Lebanon, almost every day was spent in the sound of gunshots, cannons, the explosion of car bombs, and the shrill whistling of ambulances. Lebanon has become a killing field, a “land of exile” for the “sea of ​​blood”. In these poems of Adonis, every word and every sentence is written by the poet with blood and tears in his conscience. The cruel reality forced him to go abroad again.
  Although he was in a foreign country, he still considered himself a “spiritual exile”, never tending to be inflamed, being kitsch, “I am still me”, always holding his proud head high. His poems are still like fire, and his writing is still sharp: “Tyrants will only brew their favorite wine: / The blood of freedom.” “If he kills you without hesitation when you are in prison / Then when you are free, How could he hesitate?” “Don’t just be afraid of the devil, but also the angels/’angels’, the most likely of all things to suddenly become the devil.” “Even when you put your ear to the mouth of the sky/ You can’t hear Angel’s voice.” . . . Aren’t these aphorisms enough to make the reader ponder? As for the poet himself, he declares: “Those who ask me to be realistic in this world/As if asking me to walk on one foot.” I write so that the only fountain that can water my heart continues to flow.” “The world leaves me bruised / But the wounds grow wings.” “The darkness that hits me makes me brighter / Lonely, too My stairs to the light.” . . . He wouldn’t stop his pen. Because he is the eternally young Adonis in the ancient legend that the people love, who is eternal and “reborn every morning”…