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Princess of Asturias Awards

06/09/2010

Amin Maalouf, Prince of Asturias award for Literature

Amin Maalouf. © P. Cosano. Archivo Anaya ©FPA

The French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf has been bestowed with the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature. The decision was announced by the Jury in Oviedo today.

His work, which has been translated into more than 20 languages, proves him as one of the contemporary writers who has most deeply explored Mediterranean culture, represented as a symbolic space of coexistence and tolerance.

Amin Maalouf was born in Beirut in 1949 of a Christian family. He studied political economics and sociology at the French University in Beirut and worked for the daily newspaper An-Nahar. In 1976, due to the Lebanese civil war, he moved to France in exile. In France, he continued his journalistic career as the editor of Jeune Afrique, covering numerous events such as the Vietnam War and the Iranian revolution. Since 1985, Maalouf has dedicated himself completely to writing, producing historical reality and fiction, novels and essays.

In 1983 he published his first work, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, which examines this period in history from an Arab perspective. In his first novel, Leo Africanus (1986), he portrayed, in the form of a memoir recorded by a traveler, the Mediterranean world at the beginning of the 16th century. Among his fiction novels are Samarkand (which earned the 1988 Maison de la Presse Prize) and The Gardens of Light (1990). Later he published The First Century after Beatrice (1992), an allegory of the north-south divide, while at the same time a plea for women. In 1996 he published Ports of Call, a metaphor of the Middle East crisis as well as his own personal turmoil. In his second essay, In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong (1999), Maalouf analyzes the notion of identity and the violent passion that it provokes. The author wonders about the difficulty of assuming the many forms of freedom and why affirming oneself must involve negating others. This work earned Maalouf the Charles Veillon European Essay Award. Balthazar's Odyssey (2000) is, conversely, an ode to tolerance and the meeting of different cultures. In 2004 Maalouf published Origins: A Memoir, and in his latest essay, The Mismatch of the World (2009), Maalouf asks whether the current period of turmoil could lead to the development of an adult vision of individual beliefs and differences and of the destiny of this world that we all share.

Maalouf also wrote the libretto for the opera L’amour de loin, of the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which debuted at the 2000 Salzburg Festival. He has obtained, among other awards, the Prix Goncourt for The Rock of Tanios (1993), the Prix Mediterranée and the Gold Medal of Andalucía. He has received an honorary doctorate from Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona.

Prince of Asturias Awards

The Prince of Asturias Foundation’s statutes establish that the aim of the Awards is to acknowledge and extol “scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work performed by individuals, institutions, groups of individuals or institutions at an international level.” Consonant with this spirit, the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature “will be bestowed upon the person, institution, group of people or group of institutions whose work or research constitutes a significant contribution to universal culture in the field of Literature or Linguistics.”

This year a total of 27 candidatures from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Macedonia, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Rumania, United Kingdom, United States and Spain ran for the award.

This is the fifth of the eight Prince of Asturias Awards to be bestowed in what is their thirtieth edition. The Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts went to American sculptor Richard Serra, the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences was conferred on the Archaeological Team of the Warriors of Xi’an (China), the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities was jointly bestowed on French and Polish sociologists Alain Touraine and Zygmunt Bauman and the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research went to biochemists David Julius, Baruch Minke and Linda Watkins. The Award for International Cooperation will be made public next week. The Prince of Asturias Awards for Sports and Concord will be announced in September.

Each Prince of Asturias Award, which date back to 1981, comprises a diploma, a Joan Miró sculpture representing and symbolising the Awards, an insignia bearing the Foundation's coat of arms, and a cash prize of 50,000 Euros. The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by H.R.H. the Prince of Asturias.

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