Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in literature for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugees in the gulf between cultures and continents.
Mr. Gurnah was born in 1948 and grew up on the island of Zanzibar but arrived in England as a refugee at the end of the 1960s. Until his recent retirement he was Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent, Canterbury, a statement from the Nobel Committee said.
Mr. Gurnah has published ten novels and a number of short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work. He began writing as a 21-year-old in English exile, and although Swahili was his first language, English became his literary tool.
In Mr. 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.
Mr. Gurnah’s fourth novel ‘Paradise’ (1994), his breakthrough as a writer, evolved from a research trip to East Africa around 1990. It is a coming of age account and a sad love story in which different worlds and belief systems collide.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor. The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.