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Amin Maalouf

Prince of Asturias Award for Literature 2010

Amin Maalouf (Beirut, Libano, 1949) 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.

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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 Les Desorientes (2012). In his 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.

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