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Amin Maalouf (in Arabic, مين معلوف, Beirut, February 25, 1949) is a Franco-Lebanese writer and journalist. He studied Political Economy and Sociology at the University of San José de Beirut. Journalist in the newspaper An-Nahar, as a special envoy in areas such as Vietnam and Ethiopia. In 1976 he went into exile in France because of the Lebanese civil war.
He has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters in 2010. He is a member of the French Academy, occupying the chair number 29, where he succeeded Claude Lévi-Strauss.
Although he was born in Beirut, the first years of his childhood were spent in Egypt, the country where his maternal grandfather lived. His father was a well-known journalist in Lebanon, as well as a poet and painter. Their ancestors, a mixture of Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Orthodox, atheists and Freemasons, converted to Presbyterian Protestantism in the 19th century. His mother was born into a Francophone and Maronite family with part of his origins in Istanbul, a city of important symbolism in the imagination of Amin Maalouf, whom he continues to call Constantinople. The cultures of nomadism and the minority that inhabit his work could be explained, at least in part, by that multiplicity of origins and by always feeling a foreigner: a Christian in the Arab world or an Arab in the West.
Amin Maalouf studied primary school in his hometown in a French Jesuit college, while his three sisters studied at a religious school in Besançon. His first readings, including that of the western classics, were in Arabic, but his first literary attempts, secret, were written in French, for Maalouf, the “shadow language”, as opposed to their common language or “language” of light “: Arabic.
When he studied sociology and economics at the University of Saint-Joseph, in Beirut, Amin Maalouf met Andrée, whom he married in 1971. Soon after, he started working as a journalist for the main Lebanese newspaper, An Nahar. He was sent special in problem areas such as Vietnam and Ethiopia. The civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975 and Maalouf decided to leave his country and take refuge in France, where he was soon followed by his wife and three children. In France, he first found a job as a journalist in an economy magazine, and later became editor-in-chief of Jeune Afrique. His first literary projects during this era, however, would not be published.
In 1981, Amin Maalouf signed his first contract with the publisher Jean-Claude Lattès for The Crusades Views by the Arabs, an essay that was published in 1983. But his first literary success occurred in 1986 with the novel Lion the African , thanks to which the author decides to dedicate himself to writing. He was followed by the Samarkand novels, about the Persian poet and sage Omar Khayyam, and The Gardens of Light, about the prophet Mani, which consecrated him as an important figure within the scope of the oriental-inspired historical novel. In his narrative, Maalouf mixes historical reality with fiction, and aspects of diverse cultures such as Western and Eastern.
Changing gender, Maalouf published in 1992 The First Century After Béatrice, a work of science fiction which reflects a dystopian world and forces us to reflect on society.
In 1993, Maalouf received the Goncourt Prize for his novel The Rock of Tanios, a work with the mountains of Lebanon as a stage. It is at this time that the author takes the habit of retiring to write for several months a year to a small fisherman’s house on the Isle of Yeu. In Scales of the Levant (1996) Maalouf treats for the first time the war of the Lebanon. Lebanon will be, from this moment, a theme increasingly present in his work. In 1998 he published his second essay, The Identities that Kill, by which he would obtain a year later, in 1999, the European prize of essay Charles Veillon.
His foray into the world of opera begins with the creation of the libretto of L’Amour de Loin, for the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, premiered in August 2000 at the Salzburg Festival and which, throughout its international tour, finds a good reception between the public and the critics. His collaboration with Saariaho would continue with the creation of three more operas, the last one, Émilie, premiered in 2010 at the Lyon Opera.
Along with the opera, Maalouf continues with his narrative projects, publishing in 2000 El Viaje de Baldassare, and essays. Among these, is published in 2004 Origins, a memoir, and, in 2009, Le Dérèglement du monde: Quand us civilizations s’épuisent.
Between 2007 and 2008, Amin Maalouf chairs for the European Commission a reflection group on multilingualism, which writes a report entitled A healthy challenge: how the multiplicity of languages could consolidate Europe. On June 23, 2011 he was elected a member of the French Academy in chair 29, which had occupied until his death in 2009 Claude Lévi-Strauss.
In 2012, his novel Los Desorientados is published.
His works have been translated into numerous languages. In Spain, his novels have been published in Alianza Editorial.
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