Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel Prize 2021 in literature
The 73-year-old Tanzanian author is based in the United Kingdom. His first language is Swahili, but English is his literary language.
Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the Nobel prize in literature “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”.
The 73-year-old Tanzanian author is based in the United Kingdom. His first language is Swahili, but English is his literary language. His celebrated English-language novels include “Paradise,” “By the Sea” and “Desertion.” He is the author of 10 novels.
"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," The Swedish Academy said in a statement. The statement added that Abdulrazak Gurnah consciously breaks with convention, upending the colonial perspective to highlight that of the indigenous populations. Thus, his novel ‘Desertion’ (2005) about a love affair becomes a blunt contradiction to what he has called “the imperial romance”.
The Academy said, “Gurnah’s dedication to truth and his aversion to simplification are striking. His novels recoil from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world.”
The Nobel winner is chosen by the 18 members of the Swedish Academy – an august and mysterious organisation which has made efforts to become more transparent after it was hit by a sexual abuse and financial misconduct scandal in 2017.
Last year, the prize was awarded to American poet Louise Glück – a controversy-free choice following the uproar provoked by the Austrian writer Peter Handke’s win in 2019. Handke, critics noted, had denied the Srebrenica genocide and attended war criminal Slobodan Milošević’s funeral.
The Nobel prize for literature has been awarded 118 times. Just 16 have gone to women, seven of those coming in the 21st century.