Francesco Gabrieli

1983 Balzan Prize for Oriental Studies

For his major contribution to knowledge of the Islamic world as a result of his research ranging from pre-Islamic Arabic poetry to contemporary literature, and from the history of the caliphate to the Arab reawakening, for which he has adopted a new methodological approach, thus obtaining original results.

Born in Rome in 1904 (1996), he is Emeritus Professor of Rome University, national fellow and vice president of the Accademia dei Lincei, foreign fellow of the Arab Academies of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Amman, honorary fellow of the American Oriental Society, and fellow of many other Italian and foreign academies. He holds an honorary Doctorate from the Nouvelle Sorbonne (Paris III). He has received many Italian and international scientific awards.
His wide-ranging scientific works have been dominated by the whole field of Islamic studies — Arabic, Iranian and Turkish — with special attention to the Arabic area.

His Arabic studies comprise the following fundamental works: his editions and translations of difficult pre-Islamic and Islamic poets (particularly Giamìl al-Udri, Rome 1938; Ibn Hazm, Bari 1949; Abù Firàs, Rome 1977), his historical research into mediaeval Arab history (including Il Califfato di Hishàm, Alessandria 1935), his historical-religious essays (which began with al-Mamuin e gli Alidi, Leipzig 1929), his literary writings (I viaggi di Sindibàd, Florence 1943; Le Rubaiyyàt di Omar Khayyàm, Florence 1944; Le mille e una notte, Turin 1949; I viaggi di Ibn Battuta, Florence 1961) and his philosophical essays (Alfarabius, Compendium legum Platonis, London 1952).

On modem Arab literature be has devoted penetrating works to individual authors (Mayy Ziyade, Luci e ombre, Rome 1945) and to groups of writers from the same area (Narratori egiziani, Milan 1941). His masterly work, Il risorgimento arabo (Turin 1958), dealt with recent history: it received international acclaim for its originality and the courageous outspokenness of the author’s critical judgements and has been translated into several languages. On Gli Arabi in Italia, his edition and translation of the poet Ibn Hamdìs (Mazara 1948) is a major reference work.

Many other writings provide comprehensive critical accounts of fundamental importance for their originality and balance, some of which have been translated into several languages.
The most outstanding are: Storia della letteratura araba (Milan 1951, 2nd ed. 1959, 3rd ed. 1967), Gli arabi (Florence 1967), Maometto e le grandi conquiste arabe (Miian 1967), La poésie religieuse dans l’ancien Islam (Paris 1974), Viaggi e viaggiatori arabi (Florence 1975), La storiografia arabo-islamica in Italia (Naples 1975), Gli Arabi in Italia (written jointly with U. Scerrato, Milan 1979), and Cultura araba del Novecento (Bari 1983).

Running throughout these works is the author’s intimate knowledge of Western culture, to which he so masterfully relates Islamic culture.
Taken together, these works reveal the fundamental features for which the author has earned international recognition and acclaim as a major scholar in his subject: his penetrating linguistic knowledge, even of the most subtle points of language, his up-to-date critical sense which has led him to make new, major appraisals, his comprehensive knowledge and original critical insights into every manifestation of Arabic-Islamic culture, eastern and western, from ancient times to the present day; his balanced appraisals which are continually enlightened by a great human and moral consciousness.

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