The eighty-nine-year-old Syrian poet Adonis, who was this month named GQ Middle East’s icon of the year and continues to be mentioned each year in connection with the Nobel Prize, has a new collection of China-themed poems titled Osmanthus that will, according to Xinhua, debut in a series of launch events scheduled from Oct. 31 to Nov. 15 of this year:
The Chinese state news agency reports that the Chinese translation of Adonis’s Osmanthus is made up of 50 poems “that express the poet’s affections for China’s natural scenery, history, and culture, according to the publisher Yilin Press.”
The news service adds that the collection was “inspired by the poet’s trip to China last year,” and that “the Chinese version of the poems is the first version to be released worldwide,” even before the Arabic.
Since 2009, Adonis has been a frequent visitor to China. That’s when a Chinese translation of his poems, titled roughly My Loneliness Is a Garden first appeared.
His collections, translated by Xue Qingguo, have reportedly been bestsellers in China. According to an article in the Shenzhen Daily last fall, by 2018 that first collection had been reprinted more than 30 times, and another Chinese collection, titled roughly My Anxiety Is a Spark came out last October. Adonis’s artwork has also been displayed in Chinese galleries.
According to the Shenzhen Daily, Xue Qingguo described the appeal of Adonis’s poems as:
“Adonis’ poems have brought a loud voice of ‘no’ to us who are so used to saying ‘yes.’ His thoughts can inspire us to think about the similar challenges we face, either in terms of the burden of tradition, the pressures of reality or our complicated relation with the West[.]”
Xue Qingguo received a translation and international understanding award in Qatar last year, in recognition of his work bringing Adonis’s poetry into Chinese.
Adonis was the winner of the first Golden Magnolia Award at the Shanghai International Poetry Festival in 2017, where the ” judges described his influence on Arabic poetry as equal to that of Ezra Pound’s or T.S. Eliot’s on English-language poetry,” according to the Global Times.
At a talk in Abu Dhabi last year, Chinese-Arabic translator Ahmed Al-Saeed said that Adonis and Mahmoud Darwish were the two most popular Arabic-language writers in Chinese translation.
According to Chinese PhD student Sha Min, writing in ArabLit in 2016, “The first translations from Arabic into Chinese can be traced back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties.” Sha Min noted that titles are frequently changed in Chinese in order to attract readers, with Naguib Mahfouz’s Rhadopis being changed to Courtesan and Pharaoh while Season of Migration to the North changed to Amorous Saʿīd.