Maalouf wins Spain's Prince of Asturias award
French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, whose books seek to build bridges between East and West, has been awarded Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias literature award, organisers said Wednesday.
Maalouf, 61, edged out 26 other contenders including British spy novelist John Le Carre, Portugal's Nobel-winning author Jose Saramago and Canadian author Alice Munro to take the 50,000-euro (60,000-dollar) prize.
"His work, which has been translated into more than 20 languages, proves him as one of the contemporary writers who has most deeply explored Mediterranean culture, represented as a symbolic space of coexistence and tolerance," the prize jury said in a statement.
Maalouf said it was a "great honour and a joy" to receive the award.
"Since the beginning of my literary activity, Spain has always been present in my work," he said in a statement.
Maalouf 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 this 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.
Soon after the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975, Maalouf, then a journalist in Beirut, moved to Paris with his family.
Former winners of the Asturias literature prize include Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa, Germany's Gunter Grass and Canada's Margaret Atwood. Last year's winner was Albanian writer Ismail Kadare.
Spain's Crown Prince Felipe is the patron of the Asturias foundation which annually hands out eight awards in the fields of communication and humanities, scientific and technical research, social science, arts, letters, international cooperation, understanding and sport.
The awards are presented in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo.
© 2010 AFP