The Franco-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, elected Thursday new permanent secretary of the French Academy, is a figure of the historical novel of oriental inspiration who established his work in bringing civilizations together.
Received into the Academy in 2012, he had a Marianne and a Cedar of Lebanon inscribed on his sword.
“All your work, all your thought, all your personality, it is a bridge between two worlds (…) which each carry their share of crimes but also of values. It is these values that you want to unite”, summarized under the Dome his friend Jean-Christophe Rufin, who was also running for this prestigious position.
A former journalist based in France since 1976, Amin Maalouf won the Goncourt prize in 1993 for “Le Rocher de Tanios”, which was set in the Lebanese mountains of his childhood.
We owe to this outstanding storyteller fictions such as “Léon the African” (1986), “Samarkand” (1988), “The Journey of Baldassare” (2000) or “Our Unexpected Brothers” ( 2020).
He is also the author of essays and stories such as “The Crusades seen by the Arabs” (1983), “The Scales of the Levant” (1996), “The Murderous Identities” (1998), “The Disruption of the World” (2009) or “An armchair on the Seine” (2016) where he recounts the life of the 18 academicians who preceded him in the 29th chair (his) since 1635.
He wrote booklets d opera, notably for the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. One of them, “L'Amour de loin”, was created in 2000 at the Salzburg festival.
The themes of exile, nomadism, cultural mixing, and identity inhabit his books, written in French, erudite and full of romantic pleasure. In “Origines” (2004), he talked about feeling obliged to his ancestors. Among his people, he wrote, one is naturally born nomadic, cosmopolitan, polyglot. And it is the family, the sacred lineage, which establishes the “diasporic identity” of beings who, like him, will, from Lebanon, spread throughout the world.
– Nostalgia for the “Levant ” –
Born in Beirut on February 25, 1949, Amin is the son of a journalist and writer, teacher, painter, poet and great figure of the city from the 40s to the 80s.
The writer Amin Maalouf (G ) in Port-Joinville and the diplomat and academician Jean-Christophe Rufin (D) on March 3, 2016 © AFP – LOIC VENANCE, JOEL SAGET
In the wake of this beloved father, he became a journalist after studying economics and sociology. For twelve years, he was a major reporter, covering the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy and the last battle of Saigon. Then director of the weekly “An-Nahar International”.
In 1975, he witnessed the first clashes of the civil war. This humanist intellectual decides to leave for France. “I left Lebanon after a year of war, but I don't feel guilty because, at a certain point, I had to make the decision to leave for my family and me.”
In Paris, he joined the weekly “Jeune Afrique” where he became editor-in-chief.
In the wake of Lebanese authors like Charles Corm, Nadia Tueni or Salah Stétié, Amin Maalouf writes with this mixture of strength and gentleness specific to the Orient. But, he says, “if, in the West, they find me oriental, in the East, they find me very Western!”
This reserved, smiling man waited until 1993 to evoke Lebanon in a book (“The Rock of Tanios”), “perhaps out of superstition, as if writing about my country would further aggravate his misfortune. I have never moved away from Lebanon, it was my country that had distanced itself from me.”
“I don't try to know which country I come from, I live this dual nationality, Lebanese and French, in a harmonious way”, he said when returning to his native country in 1993 to the first time in ten years.
In “Les Désorientés” (2012), he was inspired by his university years to evoke with nostalgia his country, “the Levant”, where before the war, all the communities coexisted.
There was, according to him, “a quality of coexistence between different communities which disappeared and should never have disappeared because it should have been the foreshadowing of the future and today it belongs in the past.”
Father of three sons, he is divided between Paris and the island of Yeu (Vendée). He is the uncle of trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf.
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