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Nobel Literature Prize 2021: Abdulrazak Gurnah named winner

The Academy praised the Tanzanian literary novelist Gurnah 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 Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, it was announced on Thursday (7 October).

The Academy praised Gurnah 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 prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy and is worth ten million Swedish krona (US$1.14 million or £840,000).

Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah emigrated to England as a refugee in the late 1960s.

He is the author of ten novels and many short stories. He was professor of English and post-colonial literatures at the University of Kent, Canterbury, until his recent retirement.

Second African to win the award 

No black African writer has won the prize since Wole Soyinka in 1986.

Gurnah’s most recent novel, Afterlives, tells of Ilyas, stolen from his parents by German colonial troops as a boy, who returns to his village after years fighting in a war against his own people.

It was described in the UK’s Guardian newspaper as “a compelling novel, one that gathers close all those who were meant to be forgotten, and refuses their erasure”.

“In Gurnah’s literary universe, everything is shifting – memories, names, identities. This is probably because his project cannot reach completion in any definitive sense,” said Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy.

“An unending exploration driven by intellectual passion is present in all his books, and equally prominent now, in Afterlives, as when he began writing as a 21-year-old refugee.”

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to the writer deemed to be the person who, in the words of Alfred Nobel’s will, “shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.

Winners have ranged from Bob Dylan, cited for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, to Kazuo Ishiguro, “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

According to Ellen Mattson, who also sits on the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Committee: “Literary merit. That’s the only thing that counts.”

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Source
BBC
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