Adonis and Gilbert Sinoué discuss impact of language on human identity and creativity

Source: Abu Dhabi

 French thinker and novelist Gilbert Sinoué and Syrian-Lebanese thinker and poet Adonis discussed the impact of language on identity and its importance on human creativity and cultural projects, during a session titled “Identity Makers in Other Languages”, held as part of the activities of the first day of the Arabic Language Summit, which kicked off on Tuesday.

The Summit is organised by the Ministry of Culture and Youth and in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, and the participation of a group of experts, writers, academics and specialists from around the world to discuss a range of issues that serve the advancement of the Arabic language.

Sinoué, a French novelist of Egyptian origin, addressed the talk during the session, which was moderated by Dr. Suleiman Al-Hattlan, by pointing out that he lives in the heart of Um Kulthum and the mind of Descartes, describing this relationship as a complex and important equation at the same time. He explained that the Arabic language for him is the language of science, civilization and a large world of vocabulary, as he is the one who describes that when he returns from Egypt to France, he feels more Arab.

“When I started writing novels, they told me that you do not write as a French, but as an Arab, and I tried to explain it to them, but they did not understand what I was saying. They used to tell me that your works inhabit spaces full of grandmothers’ tales, realistic stories, alleys, and so on. Your works are saturated with Arab characteristics, which is something I do not question because I was born in Egypt, and learning the Arabic language gave me a lot of skills and changed my way of thinking,” Sinoué said.

He continued, “Languages and civilisations are similar, but mindsets are different, and I must go back to my roots. I wrote about Ibn Sina among my many works in which I dealt with talking about the Arab world, and I realise that the mother tongue is the basis of identity. When people lose their mother tongue, they remain in conflict with their identity, and for me I have forgotten my mother tongue at the level of grammar, but I have not lost it mentally and emotionally, and thus I have not lost identity, but I have added another identity to my identity and this is a gain for me.”

Sinoué explained that he has always acquired more skills in having two identities, noting that through his writings, he seeks to change the stereotype about Arabs and Muslims, and promote cultural integration between East and West.

For his part, the Syrian-Lebanese thinker Adonis raised a question: “Is the Arab identity linked to the Arab expression?” Explaining that the concept of identity must be reconsidered.

He said, “We inherit our identity just like we inherit our homes, and it is important to change our view of the concept of identity and make it a horizon in which we can move and innovate and not make it as a tunnel.”

Adonis continued, “We must distinguish between two levels in observing culture and its practice and cultural creativity. The first is reformulating what we know and putting history in a new context, but with recharacterisation we are writing what are ancestors left, but in another way. There is a difference between those who are part of history and those who have history as part of them, so horizons must be opened for dialogue with the recipient. There is no escape for us as Arabs except to take a path that is not merely restoration, but a new horizon and a new vision “.

Adonis added, “We have prevailing standards of culture which are subjective. We do not read the text for the text itself, but for its owner and their thoughts, imagination, and belief.”

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