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Adonis receives the Círculo de Bellas Artes Gold Medal

The Syrian writer received the award from the organization’s president, Juan Miguel Hernández León, in Madrid on September 15. This is the first time it has been awarded to a person representing Arab culture.

September 15, 2022
Taking part in the event, in addition to the president of the Círculo de Bellas Artes and Adonis himself, were Jaafar Al Aluni (director of the magazine Banipal in Spain) and the philologist and translator Federico Arbós (National Translation Award for 1988).

This is the highest cultural distinction awarded by the Círculo de Bellas Artes (CBA) and the first time that an individual representing Arab culture has received it.

Adonis is acclaimed worldwide as a poet, essayist, philosopher and theorist of Arab poetics. Referred to in interviews as “the best living poet in the Arab world” and “the great sage of poetry, secularism and freedom of expression in the Arab world,” Adonis has been writing poetry for 75 years and has over fifty works of poetry, criticism, essays and translations published in Arabic. His modernist influence on Arabic poetry has often been compared to that of T.S. Eliot in English-language poetry.

Ali Ahmad Said Esber was born in the town of Qassabin, Syria in 1930. He took on the pseudonym of Adonis when he was 17 years old, and by doing so he unwittingly symbolized what would become his world view, his “breaking free from everything which is religious and nationalistic, and a way of embracing everything human and universal.” He co-founded and edited the influential poetry journal Sh’ir and later founded and edited the equally important Mawaqif.

In 1960, he was given a scholarship to study in Paris, and from 1970 to 1985 he was professor of Arabic literature at the University of Lebanon. However, in 1980 he went into permanent exile in Paris after the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. For years he taught at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France.

Part of his prolific work has been published in Spanish by different publishers like Ediciones del Oriente y el Mediterráneo, Vaso Roto, Alianza and Visor, as well as others. His most notable works include Homages, This Is My Name, and the poems in the Spanish anthology Árbol de Oriente and the monumental Spanish-language translations in Sombra para el deseo y el sol, as well as Songs of Mihyar of Damascus, and others.

A regular candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in recent years, Adonis has been awarded important distinctions such as the highest French honor of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (2012), Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (1997), the Nazim Hikmet Prize of Turkey (1994), the Goethe Prize of Germany (2011, first Arab author to receive the award), the Third Golden Golden Golden Antelope International Poetry Prize (2013, Xining, China), the Erich Maria Remarque Freedom Award, Osnabrück, Germany (2015), the PEN/Nabokov International Literature Lifetime Achievement Award of the USA (2017), the Thirteenth Poetry and People Award (Guangzhou, China 2018), the Gold Medal of the Government of Italy, the Giovanni Pascoli Prize, the Max Jacob or the Bjornson Prize, and many others.

In 2019, Casa Árabe organized an homage to the Syrian writer with the participation of the poet, as well as the poet and translator Clara Janés and Federico Arbós, an Arabist and translator. You can watch it here: