Tanzanian Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Oct. 7.

The Nobel Committee for Literature awarded the prize to Gurnah “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

Born in Tanzania in 1948, Gurnah moved to England as a refugee to flee persecution in the 1960s.

Gurnah is the first Black writer to win the literary award — considered as the most prestigious in the world — since Tony Morrison in 1993.

Gurnah has published 10 novels and a number of short stories, many of which focus on the refugee experience.

“In Abdulrazak Gurnah’s treatment of the refugee experience, focus is on identity and self-image. Characters find themselves in a hiatus between cultures and continents, between a life that was and a life emerging; it is an insecure state that can never be resolved,” the Nobel Committee said.

Gurnah made his breakthrough as a novelist when he won the Booker Prize for his 1994 novel, “Paradise,” which the Nobel Committee described as “a coming of age account and a sad love story in which different worlds and belief systems collide.”

Although Swahili was Gurnah’s first language, English ultimately became his “literary tool.”

Gurnah recently retired as a Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent, Canterbury.


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