France on Thursday granted one of its top honours, membership in the prestigious Academie Francaise, to Franco-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, whose books seek to build bridges between East and West.
Maalouf became the first Lebanese inducted as an one of the academy’s “immortals” — the 40 lifelong members tasked as guardians of the French language.
“I bring with me everything that my two homelands have given me: my background, my languages, my convictions, my doubts and, more than anything perhaps, my dreams of harmony, progress and co-existence,” he said at his induction ceremony.
Maalouf, 63, has published several novels that focus on the themes of Arab religious and national identity, in addition to journalism, essays and a work of history.
In 1983 he published his first work, “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes”, which examines the period from an Arab perspective.
His fifth novel, “The Rock of Tanios”, set in early 19th-century Lebanon as the seeds of sectarian bloodshed were being sown, was published a decade later and won France’s premier literary award, the Prix Goncourt.
Born to a Christian family in Beirut, Maalouf worked as a journalist in Beirut but moved to Paris with his family soon after the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975.