Tag-Archive for ◊ Lord ◊

Author:
• Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Amin Maalouf was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1949, the second of four children, from a family that originated in Yemen. He spent the first years of his childhood in Cairo, Egypt, where his parents lived at the time, before returning to Beirut a few years later. He studied at the French Jesuit school, Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour followed by the Université saint Joseph in Beirut where he read sociology and economics. His father, Ruchdi Maalouf, was a renowned writer, a journalist, a poet and a talented painter as well as the owner of a newspaper. From an early age Amin Maalouf wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Amin Maalouf became an editor for the leading Beirut daily newspaper, El Nahar International, and covered many events around the world, like the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy in September 1974, the last battle of Saigon in March and April 1975, as well as important events in Somalia, Yemen, India and Bangladesh among others.

In 1976, fourteen months after the Lebanese civil war, Maalouf flew to Paris with his wife and three young children, where he worked for the weekly, Jeune Afrique, and became editor in chief while resuming his trips and reporting from all over the world for his weekly. After the big success of his first novel, Leo The African in 1986, he dedicates himself to writing full-time. He still lives in Paris with his wife and three grown-up sons.

Maalouf ‘s mother tongue is Arabic but all his books are written in French. He has written fiction, non-fiction as well as opera librettos and his books have been translated into several languages. In 1993 Maalouf won the oldest and most famous French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, for The Rock of Tanios published the same year. In 1998 he received the European prize of the Essay for In the Name of Identity and in 2010 the Prince of Asturias award of Letters for all his work. In 2011 he was the first Lebanese to become a member of the prestigious Académie française.

Maalouf has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, the University of Tarragona in Spain and the University of Evora in Portugal.

The Rock Of Tanios, based loosely on a true story, intertwines the Lebanese history of 1830 with a legend passed from one generation to another. A world where intrigues, conflicts and competition between the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, France and Britain end in battles on Mount Lebanon. All these factors among others help to forge the destiny of Tanios Kishk, a remarkable and mysterious character.

Tanios, whose hair grows white at an early age giving him the look of a wise man despite being naive, is a tortured soul looking for identity when he fortuitously discovers his illegitimate birth. He is an intelligent, rational teenager who challenges laws and established social conventions. His fate is similar to a Greek tragedy. He seems to inadvertently trigger family, clanic and regional conflicts, which changes everything in the whole area, including people’s lives. He also unexpectedly becomes a useful mediator between leaders, despite his young age.

The story is set in the small Lebanese village of Kfaryabda – the name is fictional but the village is real. The book’s title refers to a rock, shaped like a majestic throne, to which Tanios – when he becomes a mythical figure – ascends, sits on the rock for a short while before disappearing for ever in a mysterious way and, according to the local legend, not seen again. That is why the maleficent rock carries the name of Tanios. The only rock in the area that has a human name and the only rock that children are not allowed to climb for fear of the superstitious belief that they might disappear like Tanios if they sit on it.

The narrator obtained his story from two sources: the three historical, weighty “authentic” documents and his grandfather’s cousin, the ninety-six-year-old Gebrayel, a former history teacher who is passionate about the events of the nineteenth century that took place in his region.

The narrator, the characters and happenings are imaginary, as well as being based in varying degrees on real persons and real events.

Tanios is born in suspicious circumstances. Officially his father is Sheikh Gerios who is highly ranked, being Sheikh Francis’ intendant and yet servile in his attitude and his mother is the very beautiful, Lamia. There are rumours in the village that Tanios is the son of the powerful, patriarchal, feudal lord, the philanderer, Sheikh Francis, ruler of Kfaryabda, who never hesitates to use his “droit du seigneur” over the girls and women villagers.

The Rock Of Tanios is for Maalouf a truly nostalgic return to the roots of his beloved Lebanon in days of yore. Maalouf in his “Author’s Folder” titled: A Forgotten World, says about Lebanon that it’s: “A country of extreme gentleness and extreme violence, a bewildering country…A captivating and unforgettable country, undoubtedly”.

The book is an enchanting, fascinating, colourful, bitter-sweet tale from the nineteenth century, underlining the wisdom and madness of humans, with a background of real Lebanese history, legend, superstitions, rituals, tribalism, love and vengeance, the description of a feudal society based on loyalty. It’s poetically written, with passages like this one: “Fate comes and goes through us like the shoemaker’s needle goes through the leather he is shaping”.

In The Rock Of Tanios the characters are well depicted and moving; an array of appealing personalities contrasting with forceful and devious ones. The story is like one of the One Thousdand And One Night stories, with excentric characters like the strange hawker multeer, Nader who writes philosophical books and brings them to market in the hope of selling them to learned people.

The reader feels like going on an enchanting journey across time and place, similar to Maalouf’s other unforgettable, fascinating and beautifully written novel, Samarkand, which carries us to eleventh century Persia with the story revolving around the famous philosopher and poet Omar Khayyam.

“Have I not sought beyond the legend, the truth? and when I believed to have reached the truth, it was made of legend”. Very succintly put by Amin Maalouf to describe the quintessence of the whole story behind The Rock Of Tanios.

Author:
• Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Peter Mayle was born in Brighton, England in 1939, the youngest of three children. He was educated at Brighton College, England, then at Harrison College Barbados, to where his father had been transferred as a Foreign Office employee.

Mayle left school at the age of sixteen and returned to England. In 1957 he was a trainee at Shell Oil in London before working as a creative director for BBDO, the world-wide advertising agency network based in New York City. In 1975 Mayle left his job to dedicate his time to writing books and in 1986 decided to move to the south of France.

A Year In Provence received the Best Travel Book Of The Year award in 1989 and Author Of The Year prize in 1992. Mayle was made a “chevalier de la légion d’honneur” by the French government in 2002 for his cultural contribution. He lives with his third wife and their two dogs in Lourmarin (Luberon) in France.

Peter Mayle has written several books that have been translated into a number of languages as well as articles for periodicals. A Year In Provence became a BBC TV mini-series in 1993 and A Good Year was made into a film directed by Ridley Scott and released in 2006.

The Marseille Caper is the second novel of a trilogy: The Vintage Caper in 2009, The Marseille Caper in 2012 and The Corsican Caper in 2014.

A tender for building on the last remaining seafront plot in sunny Marseille called “Anse Des Pêcheurs”, is the subject of a three-way dispute between Francis Reboul, the shady French billionaire who is hiding behind his American front-man, Sam Levitt, the sleuth in the Caper trilogy, William Wapping, a corrupt and bankrupt English Lord and former bookmaker cum thug, and Eiffel, a Paris based company represented by madame Caroline Dumas.

Elena Morales, the alluring, insurance agent from Los Angeles and Sam Levitt’s companion, is also invited by Francis Reboul to join Levitt as his guest in Marseille.

Sam Levitt presents himself to the members of the committee as an architect from an American company interested in the building project. William Wapping, who has been bribing his way through everything he wanted, will try bribery to win the “Anse Des Pêcheurs” project but to no avail. That is when he decides to play dirty in order to reach his target. When he discovers that intimidation brings no result he goes further by having his thugs knock Philippe, the journalist friend of Sam Levitt, off his scooter and as a last resort they kidnap Elena Morales.

Apart from the confrontation between the contenders and all the thrills involving the two finalists, the author takes the reader through the charming old narrow streets of old town Marseille and its old port, not forgetting the history of the whole of the south of France, recounted by Levitt which made Elena call him “a walking guide book”.

The author also describes good and unpretentious bistros serving delectable food as well as gastronomic restaurants with sophisticated delightful dishes and good wine, not to mention the constant flowing champagne and various pastries and bakery items.

The author describes French epicurism in detail, the slow pace of life in the idyllic sunny Mediterranean south of France and the “joie de vivre” encountered in this part of the world where food is taken very seriously.

An easy, enjoyable and entertaining, light-hearted read with a simple plot and a happy ending, written with a great deal of fondness by a south of France lover and a “bon vivant”. The book portrays the indulgence in a good life used to its fullest, a sort of an escapism from the everyday hectic routine elsewhere in the world.

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