A 73-year-old Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah has won the 2021 Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday. The judges commended “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Although his first language is Swahili, Gurnah is resident in England and writes primarily in English language. Gurnah is a professor at the University of Kent.
Gurnah has published 10 novels and a number of short stories. He is best known for his 1994 novel “Paradise”, set in colonial East Africa during the First World War, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.
Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature, Anders Olsson called him “one of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers”.
Gurnah would have normally received the Nobel from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.
But the in-person ceremony has been cancelled for the second straight year due to the pandemic and replaced with a televised ceremony showing the laureates receiving their awards in their home countries.
Of the 118 literature laureates since the first Nobel was awarded in 1901, more than 80 percent have been Europeans or North Americans.
No black African writer has won the prize since Wole Soyinka in 1986, Gurnah is the first Tanzanian writer to win.
Last year’s prize was won by American poet Louise Gluck for what the judges described as her “unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.
Some works by Gurnah include; Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrims Way (1988), Dottie (1990), Paradise(1994), Admiring Silence (1996), By the Sea (2001), Desertion (2005), The Last Gift (2011), Gravel Heart (2017), Afterlives (2020).
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