Lebanese-born French novelist Amin Maalouf has been chosen the Cultural Personality of the Year by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
This is a recognition of his achievements as a novelist, focusing some key moments in the history of Arab and other Eastern peoples. He’s also written about distinguished personalities dedicated to promoting harmony and dialogue between the East and the West.
The Award particularly focused on Maalouf’s ability to recreate ‘unique experiences and adventures in an extraordinary literary style that amalgamates distinctly Arabic narrative and modernist Western styles’.
Born in Lebanon in 1949, Amin Maalouf, holds a degree in economics and sociology from Beirut University. He worked for the Beirut-based daily Al-Nahar, reporting on international and political affairs and had a firsthand experience of the Lebanese civil war. He then moved to Paris with his wife and children, where he worked for the weekly newspaper Al-Nahar Al-Arabi and also at the French Jeune Afrique.
Maalouf’s first book in French, The Crusades through Arab Eyes (1983), revealed his fundamental interests: history on one hand, and narrative writing on the other. Back then, the Crusades were a central theme in French historical studies and literary texts based on history, but rarely from an Arab perspective. Maalouf‘s book presented the Crusades as experienced by the Arab community in its various segments and affiliations. He followed a strictly objective approach founded on a humanism that pervades all his work.
Amin Maalouf continued to make use of history in his fiction and to employ his narrative skill in his historical studies. He has published a number of historical novels, including Leon Africanus (1986) Samarkand (1988), The Gardens of Light (1991), and The Rock of Tanios (1993). His works are characterised by a consistent array of themes ranging from his civil war experience, constant search for identity, cultural tolerance, and world citizenship.
The award ceremony will take place on May 1, coinciding with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Maalouf will receive a cash prize of Dh 1,000,000, a gold medal bearing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award logo, and a certificate of merit.