Born in Lebanon on February 25, 1949, his parents were teachers. After studying Economics and Sociology, he worked as a reporter covering numerous events all over the world, such as the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy in 1974 and the last battle in Saigon in March-April of 1975.
When the war started in his country of birth, he left for France with his wife, Andrée, and their three children. He immediately started working as a journalist at Jeune Afrique, where he became editor-in-chief and editorial writer.
As of 1984, he dedicated his time to writing, publishing novels, essays, opera librettos. In 1993, he won the Goncourt Award for The Rock of Tanios, in 1998, the European Essay Award for In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong and, in 2010, the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature for his life’s work.
In 2007-2008, invited by the European Commission, he oversaw a think tank centered on multilingualism that published a report titled Un défi salutaire : comment la multiplicité des langues pourrait consolider l’Europe (A Salutary Challenge: How the Multiplicity of Languages could Consolidate Europe).
Honorary Doctor at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), at the Tarragona University (Spain), at the Evora University (Portugal) and at the American University in Beirut (Lebanon).
Appointed a member of the French Academy on June 23, 2011, to Claude Lévi-Strauss’ seat.