Lebanese French journalist and novelist Amin Maalouf has been awarded with the Seal of the City of Milan in recognition of his illustrious career.
Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala presented the author with the honor — the highest decoration given by the capital of the Lombardy region — during Wednesday’s opening ceremony of the 10th edition of BookCity Milan.
The book fair, which runs until Nov. 21, includes 1,400 events being held at 260 venues throughout the city including Sforzesco Castle, museums, libraries, theatres, bookstores, cultural centers, the Milan Stock Exchange building, hospitals, and even prisons.
Speaking at a press conference, Sala said: “With our award, we praise one of the most significant intellectuals in the European cultural and literary world as Maalouf is.”
The works of Maalouf, 72, who has lived in France since 1976, have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Before leaving Lebanon, he worked as editor-in-chief of An-Nahar, a Beirut-based daily newspaper, until the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, when he moved to Paris. His first and probably best-known book, “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” (1983), examines the period of the religious wars on the basis of contemporaneous Arabic sources.
Along with his non-fiction work, Maalouf has written texts for musical compositions, and numerous novels.
After thanking Sala for bestowing the honor on him, Maalouf said: “I was born and raised in Lebanon. When they ask me, ‘are you Lebanese or are you French?’ I always reply that I am both. Because my existence is made of the use of both Arabic and French languages and of living both cultures.”
He pointed out that by being from Lebanon, he had been able to assimilate the culture of the Mediterranean, Arab, and Levantine world, while learning about Western and European culture during his time living in France.
“Identity is not divided into watertight compartments: Only by harmonizing different languages and cultures is it possible to achieve that unity that neutralizes the murderous identity drift,” he added.