Asking the Wrong Questions From and About Adonis on the Syrian Revolution

I do not know why the debate with or about Adonis's attitude toward the Syrian revolution ought to be confined to intellectual approaches. He advances what has become popularized in Arabic to be a revolution in Alrou'ous and not in al-Kursi, which roughly means a revolution ought to be in the "heads" and not the "chair," meaning state or regime. I guess some critics do not go beyond such arguments due to cultural taboos which consider mentioning that someone who is a beneficiary from privileges due to ties with the political establishment falls under personal attack. Can one deny that Adonis might not be the only intellectual in the world to make peace with an oppressive regime out of "non-intellectual positions?" When I say we might be asking the wrong questions from and about Adonis, I am suggesting we transcend exclusively intellectual debates like those between classical and structural Marxists or those between political culture and modernization theorists, to recall just a few of the scholarly discussions we had as graduate students and academics. I wonder how could it be possible for Adonis to remain a soft critic in the face of "crimes against humanity" by the Assad regime with close to a 100,000 dead, five millions displaced and destruction of almost one-third of Syria's physical structure according to most international and human rights organizations. Yes, many expected more from Adonis! And I include myself among "those." Would Adonis want to be remembered as a mild critic or a bystander for an Arab Pol Pot like Assad's Cambodian counterpart?  I ask this question as a great admirer of Adonis the critic and poet whom I have read, written about and translated for this magazine. The evidence I invoke in supporting a different line of inquiry into the political positions of Adonis toward the Syrian revolution is neither sectarian nor because of his "idealistic" approach that favors reforming "man" before the "state."  In other words, Adonis' current attitudes guide me in that different direction, coupled with an incident from the past when he withdrew his name from signing a French petition demanding the release of a Syrian poet who was political prisoner, (Faraj Bayrakdar). Although he subsequently justified himself, some of those were involved in organizing the petition at the time cited what can be construed as a "security" reason more than whether or not Adonis had heard of Bayrakdar as a poet.

An article that is critical of Adonis by Bakr Sudqi can be found in Al Modon, an online newspaper on February 23, 2012.

Elie Chalala

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