Cloud, mirror, stone, thunder, eyelid, desert, sea. Through a dead or dying land, Mihyar walks: a figure of heroic individualism and dissent, part-Orpheus, part-Zarathustra. Where he goes, the austere building-blocks of his world become the expressions of passionate emotion, of visionary exaltation and despairing melancholy. The traditions of the Ancient Greeks, the Bible and the Quran flow about and through him.
Written in the cosmopolitan Beirut of the early 1960s, Adonis’s Songs of Mihyar the Damascene did for Arabic poetry what The Waste Land did for English. These are poems against authoritarianism and dogma, in which a new Noah would abandon his ark to dive with the condemned, and in which surrealism and Sufi mysticism meet and intertwine. The result is a masterpiece of world literature.
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