Jonathan Guyer interviews Adonis in The NY Review of Books Daily:
In your new book, Violence et Islam, you wrote that ISIS represents the end of Islam. Will there be a new beginning?
You know, we have to remain believers. How so? If people, if humanity, comes to an end, then the world ends. As long as there are individuals—what I am saying now is that I am not alone. There are many individuals, in Egypt and other countries, who say what I am saying. This is why we have to remain confident that the human will reach a stage where he will find better solutions. But when and how will be determined in time. But I can say that the Arabs will never advance as long as they think and operate in this old, jihadist, religious context. It is not possible. This is what is extinct, what has ended. ISIS is the last shout. Like a candle about to go out, it ends with strength.
The renaissance needs time. Our society, during the fifteen centuries since the foundation of the first Islamic state, has not been able to establish a society of citizens. With a citizen’s duties come rights. Until now, Arab societies are formed of individuals who carry out the same duties but have different rights: the Christian does not have the same rights as the Muslim, for instance. Fifteen centuries. How can we solve fifteen centuries in a week or two, a month or two? But I trust that the time will come, but outside this context.
Does change require a new engagement with the West? I read your poem, “Desire Moving Through Maps of Matter” (1987), about the Eiffel Tower floating in the Mediterranean Sea, and a conversation you wrote between Abu Nawas and Victor Hugo. The bridge between Arabs and the West—
The East and the West are economic and military concepts, and were created by colonialism. We can say geographically that there are East and West. Economics and colonialism took advantage of that.
But in art there is no East and West. You see it in the paintings of Paul Klee and how he was inspired by Tunisia and Eastern Arabia. You see it in the paintings of Delacroix and how he was inspired by Morocco. When you read Rimbaud, you see that the best thing about Rimbaud is that he is not a Westerner; although he was born in the West, he was completely against the West. When you read Abu Nawas, or Abu Al-Ma’arri, you do not say that they are Easterners or Westerners. The creative ones are from one world, regardless of what country they come from or where they went.