Politicians recognized the position Amin Maalouf occupies in France and the francophone world well before the Academy; these politicians include the Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy who made the author of “Leo Africanus” (Leo the African) accompany them in their visits to Lebanon. And how embarrassing it seemed when President Chirac, in his 1996 visit to Lebanon, introduced his “friend” Maalouf to the three presidents of Lebanon: President Elias Hrawi, Prime minister Rafik Hariri, and House Speaker Nabih Berri. Can you imagine that scene? Lebanese top officials waiting for a French president to convene a meeting between them and a renowned Lebanese author. Perhaps these men found it strange for a novelist to accompany presidents in political missions?
The talk of the town—or rather the country—in Lebanon has fixated on the great influx of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Sadly, such talk is not about their physical, social and psychological suffering, but largely about their very presence in Lebanon and what it means to a delicate demographic and sectarian balance.
Those bemoaning the death of the Arab Spring must read what Hashem Saleh has to say. Unlike the apologists for Arab dictatorships who are reading the Arab revolts from ideological and political perspectives, Saleh is analyzing the Arab Spring from a philosophical perspective, according to Karam al-Helou.