Nelida Nassar 11.09.2013
A member of the French Academy and the star guest speaker at the Francophone Beirut Book Fair, Amin Maalouf was granted the National Order of the Cedar medal with the rank of Grand Cordon by Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic. The ceremony was held in his honor at the Palace of Baabda. An emblazoned commemorative stamp bearing Maalouf’s portrait will also soon be issued, added Mr. Sleiman.
Maalouf thanked the president for this high honor pledging that “he still dreams about a Lebanon where coexistence will prevail,” persisting that this dream is not impossible but attainable. He also added that “the world is still searching for a model of coexistence.”
Born on February 25, 1949 in Beirut, Maalouf devoted his work to understanding better the cultural and ideological rifts, differences and conflicts between civilizations. A journalist at the main Beirut Arabic language daily An-Nahar, he was forced into exile to France in 1976 when Lebanon was being ravaged by civil war. The journalist is also the author of a body of work, including essays and novels. Returning to the essay once every decade, he believes is a more moral engagement. It is a complex literary genre whereby he attempts to deliver powerful calibrated messages using precise words and clear thoughts. The themes of exile and identity figure prominently in his novels, particularly in “Les identitées meurtrières” The Murderous Identities of 1989 and “Le dérèglement du monde” The Disruption of the World of 2009.He published his first history book in 1983, “Les Croisades vues par les Arabes” The Crusades through Arab Eyes. But it was his novel in 1986 “Leo l’Africain” Leo Africanus that propelled him to fame introducing him to the general public. Following the success of this novel, he decided to devote himself solely to the muse of literature.
After couple of candidature attempts in 2004 and 2009, Maalouf was elected in June 2011 to the French Academy, seat 29, succeeding the anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Levi- Strauss, who died in October 2009. In 2010, he received Spain’s most prestigious art award, the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature. In 1993, it was the Prix Goncourt for his book “Le Rocher de Tanios” The Rock of Tanios. Maalouf deplores that the world has become more global (the way of life is becoming similar across the world) while losing its universality (we are more distrusthful of each other). This “Immortal” of the French Academy makes Lebanon proud.