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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Amin Maalouf
Amin Maalouf has won France's prestigious Priz Goncourt literary prize
In a HardTalk Extra interview screened on 31st March, Gavin Esler spoke to Lebanese author Amin Maalouf about his motivations for writing, and his views on religious and national identity.

Amin Maalouf is one of Lebanon's most distinguished authors.

His books including The Rock of Tanios and Leo the African have won him a crop of international literary prizes.

Ever since Lebanon's civil war in the mid-1970s he has lived in self-imposed exile in Paris.

Though he has built his literary reputation writing in French, his historical novels return again and again to the themes of Arab religious and national identity in the Middle East.

Hardtalk Extra caught up with Amin Maalouf at his home in central Paris
Amin Maalouf told Gavin Esler that the politics of identity, as opposed to ideology, define the conflicts of the twenty-first century.

He said that this is a negative development, because rational debates can be held about ideology, but not about identity.

Failure to reconcile the problems of national identity played a part in causing the Paris riots at the end of last year, which he witnessed.

Amin Maalouf told Hardtalk Extra that he is drawn to the historical novel because he feels more comfortable in the past.

He also said that he draws on history to produce "positive myths" about tolerance for our troubled times.

HARDtalk Extra can be seen on BBC World at 0330 GMT, 0830 GMT, 1530 GMT, 1830 GMT, 2330 GMT.

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30.

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