Gurnah, novelist of colonialism & refuge, wins literature Nobel 1st African To Win In Nearly 2 Decades; 5th Overall

Gurnah, novelist of colonialism & refuge, wins literature Nobel 1st African To Win In Nearly 2 Decades; 5th Overall

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded Thursday to Abdulrazak Gur nah for "his uncompromi sing and com passionate pe netration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents Gurnah was born in Zanzibar, which is now part of Tanzania, in 1948, but he currently lives in Britain. He left Zanzibar at age 18 as a A woman with a refugee after a violent 1964 uprising in which soldiers overthrew the country's go vernment. He is the first Afri- can to win the award-consi dered the most prestigious in world literature in almost two decades. He is the fifth ove rall, after Wole Soyinka of Ni- geria in 1986, Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt, who won in 1988; and South African winners Nadi- ne Gordimer in 1991 and John Maxwell Coetzee in 2000.
Gurnah's 10 novels include "Memory of Departure," "Pil- grims Way" and "Dottie," which all deal with the immi- grant experience in Britain: "Paradise" shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994, about a boy in an East African country scarred by colonialism; and "Admiring Silence" aboutayo ung man who leaves Zanzibar for England, where he marries and becomes a teacher
Gurnah's first language is Swahili, but he adopted Eng- lish as his literary language, with his prose often inflected with traces of Swahili, Arabic and German. Anders Olsson, the chair of the committee that awards the prize, said at the news conference Thurs- day that Gurnah "is widely re- cognized as one of the world's more preeminent post-coloni- al writers."Gurnah "has con- passion, penetrated the effects of colonialism in East Africa
In an interview with the website Africainwords earlier this year Gurnah spoke about how, in his recent book, "After lives," he was seeking to illu sistently and with great comminate bow people affected by war and colonialism are sha ped but not defined by those ex book
and its effects on the lives of uprooted and migrating indi viduals," he added. The cha racters in his novels, Olsson added, "find themselves in the gulf between cultures and continents, between the life left behind and the life to co- me, confronting racism and prejudice, but also compelling themselves to silence the truth or reinventing biograp- hy to avoid conflict with reali ty"
Gurnah, who recently re- tired as a professor of post-co- lonial literature at the Uni versity of Kent, got the call from the Swedish Academy in the kitchen of his home in southeast England. "Tm ab- solutely excited," he told AP "I just heard the news my self."
Laura Winters, writing in New York Times in 1996, called "Paradise" "a shimmering, oblique coming of age fable" adding that "Admiring Silen- oe was a work that "skillfully depicts the agony of a man caught between two cultures each of which would disown him for his links to the other copy of Tanzanian-bom author Abdulrazak Gurnaly's periences, and how it grow out of stories he heard growing up in Zanzibar "I was surround ed by people who experienced these things firsthand and wo uld talk about them." he said. "These stories have been with me all along, and what I nee ded was time to organize them into this story My scholarly work has also shaped these sto ries"
images Gurnah, novelist
Gurnah noted that throug hout his career, he has been en gaged with the questions of displacement, exile, identity and belonging. There are dif ferent ways of experiencing belonging and unbelonging." hesaid. "How do people percel vethemselves as part of a com munity? How are some inclu ded and some excluded? Who does the community belong to? In the prelude to this ye ar'saward, the literature prize was called out for lacking di versity among its winners. Jo urnalist Greta Thurfjell, wri ting in Dagens Nyheter, a Swe dish newspaper, noted that 96 of the 117 past Nobel laureates were from Europe or North America, and that only 16 win ners had been women.
Last year's prize went to American poet Louise Gluck for what the judges described as her "unmistakable poetic vice that with austere bean ty makes individual existence universal.

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