Sufism and Surrealism

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Sufism and Surrealism

2016 Staff Favorite

Only a poet would choose to explain two elements of the world that are unexplainable. But being a poet proves the advantage. Adonis finds the sweet spot in catching the wind inside both of their destinations. He uses his own knowledge and experience in both by showing that though one, Sufism, is usually confined to a religious pantheon, and the other, Surrealism, is completely lacking in affiliation to any religious institution, he finds their parallel in the high point, a.k.a the holy madness, that both intend to achieve in practice and in living. This may seem like a muddy point to make but for a reader like myself who's studied Sufism extensively, and understands the angle in which its intentions lie, and has researched the essence behind Surrealism, I too see them as being two sides of the same coin, especially when it comes to producing poetry. These are both, for lack of an easier term, alchemical processes. Max Ernst spoke alot about these things as well. It is the individual's sole journey to the center that both disciplines hope to achieve, whatsoever its manifestation. Adonis proves that, from a traditional standpoint, God does not exist in either. Because it is not worship of God nor of oneself that they both have in common, but rather a discovery of oneself.

"The Arab world's greatest living poet."--The New York Times

"Adonis is one of the most important major literary figures of our century. His vision is extraordinary, his poetry sublime . . . a master of our times."--V. S. Naipaul

At first glance, Sufism and Surrealism appear to be as far removed from one another as is possible. Adonis, however, draws convincing parallels between the two, contesting that God, in the traditional sense, does not exist in Surrealism or in Sufism, and that both are engaged in parallel quests for the nature of the Absolute, through "holy madness" and the deregulation of the senses.

This is a remarkable investigation into the common threads of thought that run through seemingly polarised philosophies from East and West, written by a man Edward Said referred to as "the most eloquent spokesman and explorer of Arab modernity."

Adonis is one of the most celebrated poets and essayists of the Arab world. Born in Syria in 1930, he fled political persecution and settled in Lebanon in the 1950s, where he led the modernist movement in Arabic poetry. He has written more than thirty books in Arabic, including the pioneering work An Introduction to Arab Poetics, and was awarded the Goethe Prize in 2011 for his contribution to international literature. His other awards include the Spiros Vergos Prize for Freedom of Expression, the Bjørnson Prize, the International Nâzim Hikmet Poetry Award, and the Syria-Lebanon Best Poet Award.

Publication Date: 
May 10, 2016