Origins A Memoir

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-06-09
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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"Origins," by the world-renowned writer Maalouf, is a sprawling, hemisphere-spanning, inter-generational saga. This work is at once a gripping family chronicle and a timely consideration of Lebanese culture and politics.

Author Biography

Amin Maalouf was a journalist in Lebanon until the civil war in 1975, when he left for Paris with his family. His work has been translated into more than forty languages, and his books have won prestigious prizes, including the Prix Goncourt.

Table of Contents

Praise for Amin Maalouf and Origins

“Maalouf doesn’t only want to illuminate family history or amplify stories barely whispered for a hundred years; instead, he strives to reveal the fecund variety of his own family, of Arab life and history, of history itself. In doing so, he offers a lesson in the value of impermanence and shifting sands . . . Maalouf wants nothing more than to unwind the long scarf of memory and history, not to make a claim, but in celebration of human dignity, endeavor and 'wanderers who have lost their way.' He is one of that small handful of writers, like David Grossman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who are indispensable to us in our current crisis.” —Jonathan Wilson, The New York Times Book Review

“A journey well worth taking, an elegant meditation on mortality and our relationship to the past.” —Juliet Wittman, The Washington Post Book World

“In this riveting and intriguing memoir, [Maalouf] describes himself and his family as a rather nomadic clan, without deep emotional ties to place or religious affiliation . . . The result is an excellent family saga that also works as a mystery and even as a discourse on the political culture of Lebanon. Maalouf is a gifted writer; he has a knack for maintaining dramatic tension as he reveals his efforts to uncover his family’s secrets, layer by layer, as his search extends over three continents. This is an intensely personal and compelling story.” —Jay Freeman, Booklist

“A profound journey of self-discovery.” —Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Bookforum

“Maalouf’s narrative gains in emotional immediacy from its lack of the polished presentation often found in memoirs…His kins’ reactions to tragedies and triumphs both personal and universal add to the book’s vibrant texture and tone.  A shimmering portrait of a clan molded by history and personal whim.”—Kirkus Reviews

“What do you get when one of the Arab world’s greatest writers, a Prix-Goncourt-winning historical novelist, decides to write a memoir? A marvel. Amin Maalouf has given us the engrossing story of his grandfather, a prescient, remarkable man, as well as the story of his time and place—how the Middle East was formed, politically, geographically, historically, and not least, psychologically. An extraordinary achievement.”   —Rabih Alameddine, author of The Hakawati

“Maalouf’s novels re-create the thrill of childhood reading, that primitive mixture of learning about something unknown or unimagined . . .”   —Claire Messud, The Guardian

“One of the best European writers to have emerged in the last decade.”   —Kirkus Reviews

“Maalouf skillfully weaves the threads of contemporary history into his fictional narratives . . . In each of his books, he takes a historical figure about whom few facts are known, puts him in the context of this time and place and adds a myriad of invented but historically plausible details. The finished portraits have the intricate richness of oriental tapestries.”   —International Herald Tribune

“What is common to Maalouf's wide-ranging works—six of his novels have been translated into English—is his apparent belief that through examining and understanding a particular historical period we can gain a better understanding of our present time. Indeed, if you want to understand what's going on in the world at this moment, you could certainly do worse than to read Maalouf on the past.”   —Ian Sansom, The Guardian

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