This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Tanzanian novelist Abdulrajak Gurnah for his work on how the refugee experience and colonialism shaped African culture.
At a press conference at the Swedish Academy’s headquarters in Stockholm, Permanent Secretary Matt Helm said that Gurna received the award “for his uncompromising and compassionate admission of the effects of colonialism and the refugee’s fate in the gulf between cultures and continents”.
Gurna, born in 1948 and raised on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, himself arrived in England as a refugee in the late 1960s. He has published ten novels and several short stories.
“Everything is changing in the literary world of Gurnaah – memories, names, identities,” the academy said in its statement. There is an endless quest driven by intellectual passion in all of his books.” The statement said the quality is evident in his latest novel, 2020’s “Afterlives”, which he began writing as a 21-year-old refugee.
The Academy further stated that Gurna’s writings are “charming” for their devotion to truth and “his opposition to simplification”. His novels break away from stereotypical descriptions and open our eyes to culturally diverse East Africa that is unfamiliar to many people in other parts of the world. “
Gurnaah will receive a cash prize of $1.1 million, but for writers, the prize also adds prestige and publicity by exposing their work to a wider audience.
The Nobel Prizes for Medicine, Physics and Chemistry were awarded earlier this week, while the Peace Prize will be awarded on Friday and the Economics Prize on Monday.
The awards will all be formally presented in December. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy announced that this year’s celebrations will be a mix of digital and physical events. The laureates will receive their Nobel Prize medals and diplomas in their home countries.
Some information in this report has come from Reuters.