He qualified as a doctor and committed himself to humanitarian causes. He was vice president of Doctors Without Borders and president of Action Against Hunger. As a writer, he first published political essays: The Humanitarian Trap (1986), The Empire and the New Barbarians (1992) and The Humanitarian Adventure (1994). For the last 10 years he has devoted himself to fiction. Many of his novels have been awarded prizes and become classics: The Abyssinian(1997), Lost Causes (1999, winner of the Interallié prize), Red Brazil (2001, winner of the Goncourt prize), Globalia (2004) and The Salamander (2005). He became a member of the prestigious Académie Française in 2008 (seat of H. Troyat). His most recent novel, The Big Heart (2012) is based on the historical figure J. Cœur.