Amin Maalouf

Amin Maalouf (French: [maluf]; Arabic: أمين معلوف; born 25 February 1949) is a Lebanese-born French[1] author who has lived in France since 1976.[2] Although his native language is Arabic, he writes in French, and his works have been translated into over 40 languages. He received the Prix Goncourt in 1993 for his novel The Rock of Tanios as well as the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature. He is a member of the Académie française.

Amin Maalouf
Amin Maalouf by Claude Truong-Ngoc, 2013
Born (1949-02-25) 25 February 1949
Beirut, Lebanon
OccupationWriter, scholar and novelist
Notable worksLeo the African, The Rock of Tanios, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Samarkand


Maalouf was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and grew up in the Badaro cosmopolitan neighborhood,[3] the second of four children. His parents had different cultural backgrounds. His mother, Odette Ghossein, is Lebanese, from the Metn Village of Ain el Kabou, she was born in Egypt and lived there for many years before coming back to Lebanon. She currently lives in France. His father was from the Melkite Catholic community[4] near the village of Baskinta in Ain el Qabou. Maalouf's mother was a staunch Maronite (Catholic) who insisted on sending him to Collège Notre Dame de Jamhour, a French Jesuit school. He studied sociology at the Francophone Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut.

He worked as the director of the Beirut-based daily newspaper An-Nahar until the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, when he moved to Paris, which became his permanent home.

Maalouf's first book, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, 1983, examined the period on the basis of contemporaneous Arabic sources.[5]

Besides novels, he has written four texts for musical compositions and several works of non-fiction, of which Crusades through Arab Eyes is probably the best known.[1]

In 2011, he was elected to seat #29 of the Académie française,[6] a chair previously held by Ernst Renan. He is trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf's uncle.[7]


In 1993, Maalouf was awarded the Prix Goncourt for his novel The Rock of Tanios ("Le rocher de Tanios"), set in 19th-century Lebanon.[8][9] In 2010 he received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for Literature for his work, an intense mix of suggestive language, historic affairs in a Mediterranean mosaic of languages, cultures and religions and stories of tolerance and reconciliation.

He was elected a member of the Académie française on 23 June 2011 to fill seat 29, left vacant by the death of anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.[10] Maalouf is the first person of Lebanese heritage to receive that honor.[5] His book Un fauteuil sur la Seine briefly recounts the lives of those who preceded him in seat 29.[11]

Maalouf has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), the American University of Beirut (Lebanon), the Rovira i Virgili University (Spain), the University of Évora (Portugal), and the University of Ottawa (Canada).[2]

In 2016, he won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for "Cultural Personality of the Year", the premier category with a prize of 1 million dirhams.[12]


Maalouf's novels are marked by his experiences of civil war and migration. Their characters are itinerant voyagers between lands, languages, and religions and he prefers to write about "our past".

  • (1986) Léon l'Africain; English translation: Leo Africanus (1992, Peter Sluglett) ISBN 1-56131-022-0
  • (1988) Samarcande; English translation: Samarkand (1994, Russell Harris) ISBN 1-56656-293-7
  • (1991) Les jardins de lumière; English translation: The Gardens of Light (1996, Dorothy S. Blair) ISBN 1-56656-248-1
  • (1992) Le Premier siècle après Béatrice; English translation: The First Century after Beatrice (1993, Dorothy S. Blair) ISBN 0-7043-7051-4
  • (1993) Le Rocher de Tanios (Prix Goncourt); English translation: The Rock of Tanios (1994, Dorothy S. Blair) ISBN 0-8076-1365-7[13]
  • (1996) Les Échelles du Levant; English translation: Ports of Call (1996, Alberto Manguel) ISBN 1-86046-890-X
  • (2000) Le Périple de Baldassare; English translation: Balthasar's Odyssey (2002, Barbara Bray) ISBN 1-55970-702-X



All Maalouf's librettos have been written for the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho.

Honours and decorations

Ribbon barCountryHonour
 FranceChevalier of the Legion of Honour
 FranceGrand officier of the National Order of Merit
 FranceCommander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
 FinlandKnight First class of the Order of the Lion of Finland
 LebanonGrand Cordon of the National Order of the Cedar
 MonacoOfficier of the Order of Cultural Merit (Monaco)

Notes and references

  1. "Amin Maalouf" Archived 27 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Modern Arab writers.
  2. "About the author", with Amin Maalouf.
  3. Amine Maalouf Bedroom
  4. Esposito, Claudia (2013), "Of Chronological Others and Alternative Histories: Amin Maalouf and Fawzi Mellah", The Narrative Mediterranean: Beyond France and the Maghreb, Lexington Books, p. 36, ISBN 978-0739168226, born into a culturally composite family - his mother was Egyptian of Turkish origin, his father a Greek Catholic in 1949 in Lebanon...
  5. "Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf joins elite French Academy", The Daily Star, 15 June 2012.
  7. {{cite news|newspaper=Le Figaro|url= March 2017|title⁼Qui est Ibrahim Maalouf trompettiste dans la tourmente?|author1=Olivier Nuc|author2=Valérie Sasportas}
  8. Reuters (9 November 1993). "Amin Maalouf wins top French book award". Toronto Star.
  9. Annie Coppermann, "Amin Maalouf, lauréat attendu du prix Goncourt" (in French), Les Echos (9 November 1993).
  10. "Amin Maalouf entre à l'Académie française". Le Monde. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  11. Un fauteuil sur la Seine : Quatre siècles d'histoire de France, Grasset, 2016 (ISBN 978-2-246-86167-6)
  12. Ghazal, Rym (2 May 2016). "Cultural Personality of the Year Award winner Amin Maalouf: 'I prefer to write about our past'". The National.
  13. "Le palmarès" (in French). Académie Goncourt. Archived from the original on 6 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  14. "Prix Méditerranée". Prix.
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