Sufism-and-Surrealism

Review :

Adonis's examination of the parallels between Sufism and Surrealism is nothing short of electrifying, and impossible (for me) to encompass in a review. So let me just give an example of Adonis's insights, from his final chapter, entitled "Rimbaud, Orientalist, Sufi":

"The great thinkers of mankind taught orally. Their teachings, which are written down, die if they are not read in ever-changing ways. Such teachings do not provide us with the truth about anything but only help us to discover it. It is a moveable organic truth, which must be constantly reinterpreted if it is to continue to live. It is the same with the world: it is not given to man so that he can enchain it in limited knowledge, but it is given to him so that he can interpret it. Heraclitus describes the world as a river, in which we never swim twice. A great book is similar. When we embark on a book, determining the meaning of every world and applying our finite knowledge to what it says, we kill it. Every reader, through the ages, must start the book as if plunging into a river. When he returns to it a second time, he will interpret it differently, he will have changed and book will have changed. The book is the person who is reading or interpreting it."

Of course, this is a translation ( by Judith Cumberbatch) from Adonis's Arabic, and at times I suspected that her English doesn't capture the subtleties of the author's prose. Still, the book is illuminating (in a Sufi, Surrealist, Rimbaudistic sense), and anyone who cares about "the struggle for freedom and for authentic expression" will profit from reading it.


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