He is the second writer of colour from sub-Saharan Africa to win the biggest literary award.

Abdulrazak Gurnah reads for a Canterbury Cathedral project in Canterbury, Britain in June 2021.

Abdulrazak Gurnah reads for a Canterbury Cathedral project in Canterbury, Britain in June 2021.
(Reuters)

Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak
Gurnah, 72, won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his
uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of
colonialism and the fate of the refugee,” the award-giving body
said on Thursday.

Based in Britain, Gurnah is the first African writer to win
the award since the Zimbabwean Doris Lessing in 2007, and only
the second writer of colour from sub-Saharan Africa, after
Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka, who won in 1986.

His novels include “Paradise”, which is set in colonial East
Africa during the First World War and was short-listed for the
Booker Prize for Fiction, and “Desertion”.

“In his ten novels he has consistently, and with great compassion, penetrated the effects of colonialism in East Africa and its effects on the lives of uprooted and migrating individuals,” Anders Olsson, head of the Swedish Academy Nobel Committee, told reporters.

A member of staff holds copies of books by Zanzibar-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah in a book shop in London on October 7, 2021.

A member of staff holds copies of books by Zanzibar-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah in a book shop in London on October 7, 2021.
(AP)

Gurnah left Africa as a refugee in the 1960s amid the
persecution of citizens of Arab origin under President Abeid
Karume’s regime in Zanzibar where he grew up, when the peaceful
liberation from British colonial rule led to a revolution.

He was only able to return to Zanzibar in 1984, allowing him
to see his father shortly before his death.

In spotlight for years

His selection for the top honour in literature comes at a
time of global tensions around migration, as millions of people
flee violence and poverty in places such as Syria, Afghanistan
and Central America, or are displaced by climate change.

Olsson
said the committee’s choice was not a response to recent
headlines, and it had been following Gurnah’s work for years.

“I think its just brilliant and wonderful,” Gurnah told
Reuters when asked how he felt to win the prize. “It’s just
great — its just a big prize, and such a huge list of wonderful
writers — I am still taking it in,” he said.

“It was such a complete surprise that I really had to wait
until I heard it announced before I could believe it.”

Though Swahili was his first language, English became
Gurnah’s literary tool when he began writing as a 21-year-old.

He has drawn inspiration from Arabic and Persian poetry as
well as the Koran, but the English-language tradition, from
William Shakespeare to V. S. Naipaul, would especially mark his
work, the Swedish Academy said.

“That said, it must be stressed that he consciously breaks
with convention, upending the colonial perspective to highlight
that of the indigenous populations,” said the academy.

Source: Reuters





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