Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah said he was surprised to be awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy praised Gurnah for "effectively touching the effects of colonialism".
The award is given by the Swedish Academy and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.14 million / £840.000). The 73-year-old Gurnah is the author of 10 novels, including Paradise and Desertion.
He said how grateful he was to the Academy, adding: “It was such a big surprise that I had to wait until I heard its announcement before I believed it.”
Published in 1994, Paradise told the story of a boy growing up in early 20th century Tanzania and was nominated for the Booker Prize, marking his breakthrough as a novelist. “Abdulrazak Gurnah's dedication to truth and avoidance of simplification is remarkable,” the Nobel Committee for Literature adds in a statement.
“His novels are separate from stereotypes and open our eyes to a culturally diverse East Africa that many people elsewhere in the world are unfamiliar with.”
His characters find themselves in a vacuum between cultures and continents, between an existing life and an emerging life. This is an insecure situation that can never be resolved.
Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah came to England as a refugee in the late 1960s. He was Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at Canterbury Kent University until his recent retirement.
Gurnah is the first black African writer to win the award since Wole Soyinka in 1986. He said his award would mean "discussing" issues such as the refugee crisis and colonialism.
“These are things that happen with us every day. “People are dying, people are hurting all over the world – we have to deal with these issues in the best way possible,” he said.
“I came to the UK when these words were not quite the same as refugees – more and more people are struggling and fleeing terror states.
“The world is much more violent than it was in the 1960s, so there is now more pressure on safe countries, they inevitably attract more people.”
In a 2016 interview, when asked if she would call herself a “postcolonial and/or world literature writer,” Gurnah replied, “I wouldn't use any of those words. I wouldn't call myself any writer. .
“Actually, I'm not sure I'd call myself anything other than my name. I guess if someone challenges me, it's like, 'Are you… one of them…?' It would be another way of saying it. I would probably say 'no'. Absolutely, I don't want that piece of me to have a reductive name."
The Nobel Prizes, awarded since 1901, recognize achievements in literature, science, peace and, finally, economics.
Past winners have included novelists such as Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison, poets such as Pablo Neruda, Joseph Brodsky and Rabindranath Tagore, and playwrights such as Harold Pinter and Eugene O'Neill.
American poet Louise Gluck won the award last year.
📩 09/10/2021 17:00