Syrian poet Adonis wins Germany's Goethe prize

Wed May 25, 2011 9:04pm EDT
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian poet Adonis, who has championed democracy and secular thought in the Middle East, was awarded Germany's prestigious Goethe Prize Wednesday.

"The selection committee considered Adonis the most important Arab poet of his generation and granted him the prize for his cosmopolitan (work) and contribution to international literature," the German government said in a statement.

It said Adonis, who calls himself "the pagan poet" will receive the 50,000 euro ($70,320) prize, which is awarded every three years, at a ceremony in Frankfurt, Goethe's home city, on August 28.

The announcement came as an uprising against autocratic rule, inspired by the revolutions that toppled the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, is sweeping Adonis' homeland Syria, despite a crackdown that has killed hundreds of civilians.

Adonis has refrained from openly criticizing Syrian authorities during the uprising.

But he launched a scathing attack three weeks ago on all Arab rulers as "leaving behind nothing except breakdown, backwardness, retreat, bitterness and torture. They gathered power. They did not build a society. They turned their countries into a space of slogans without any cultural or human content."

He said the uprising in Syria would test whether the Arab revolution would succeed in building "human civic life" that rises above religion.

Referring to fears that Arab uprisings might usher in Islamist rulers, he expressed skepticism that even "moderate Islam" would offer rights to non-Muslims.   Continued...