STOCKHOLM (WNN) — Writer Abdulrajak Gurnah, a Tanzanian writer from Britain, whose experience crossing continents and cultures has nurtured his novels about the impact of migration on individuals and societies, won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday.
Swedish Academy Award Gurna’s “non-compromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee”.
Gurna, who recently retired as professor of English and post-colonial literature at the University of Kent, received a call from the Swedish Academy in the kitchen of his home in Canterbury in south-east England – and initially thought it was a It’s prank.
“You’d think it couldn’t be true,” he told the Associated Press. “It really took my breath away.”
Gurna, 72, arrived in Britain half a century ago as an 18-year-old refugee. He said that the themes of migration and displacement explored in his novels are even more urgent now – amid the mass movements of displaced people in Syria, Afghanistan and beyond – when he began his writing career.
“The scale is different,” he said. “I think what makes it different is what we see in the way that people risk their lives. Of course, coming to the United States from Haiti a few decades ago, people put their lives at risk. Granted, and it was terrible.”
But in recent years, with large numbers of asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean or the Sahara, he said, “terror is of a different scale.
He said he hopes the imagery can help people in wealthy countries understand the humanity of the migrants they see on their screens.
“What imagination can do it can fill in the gaps,” he said. “And really allow people to see that, in fact, they are complex stories that are being mashed up by high-sounding lies and distortions that are popular culture to somehow ignore and what they don’t.” He needs to be dismissed. Doesn’t want to be heard.”
Born in 1948 on the island of Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, Gurna moved to Britain in the late 1960s, fleeing an oppressive regime that persecuted the Arab Muslim community to which he belonged.
He is said to have written “stumbling” as a way of exploring both the loss and emancipation of the emigrant experience after arriving in England.
Gurnaah is the author of 10 novels, including “Memory of Departure,” “Pilgrim’s Way,” “Paradise”—shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994—”By the Sea,” “Decision” and “Afterlives.” The settings range from East Africa under German colonialism to modern-day England. Many trace this to what they have called “one of the stories of our times”: the profound impact of migration on displaced people and the places where they make their new homes.
Gurnah, whose native language is Swahili but who writes in English, is the sixth African-born writer to have been awarded the Nobel for Literature, which has been dominated by European and North American writers since it was founded in 1901. .
Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1986, hailed the latest African Nobel laureate as proof that “arts—and especially literature—are well and thriving, in a continent far from depressing realities. A strong flag waved above”. permanent journey. “
“The race can grow!” Soyinka told the WNN in an email.
Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature, called Gurna “one of the world’s foremost post-colonial writers”. He said it is significant that Gurnah has its roots in Zanzibar, a multilingual place that “was cosmopolitan long before globalization.”
“His work gives us a vivid and very accurate picture of another Africa that is not well known to many readers, a coastal region in and around the Indian Ocean that has been affected by slavery and changing forms of oppression under various regimes and colonial powers. Marked: Portuguese, Indian, Arab, German and British,” Olson said.
He said that the characters of Gurnaah “find themselves in the chasm between cultures … between the life left behind and the life to come, facing racism and prejudice, but avoiding conflict with reality. To silence the truth or to reconstruct the biography.”
News of the award was greeted with enthusiasm in Zanzibar, where many remembered Gurna and her family – although few had actually read his books.
Gurnah’s books are not needed and “rarely found” in schools there, said Simai Mohamed Sayeed, the local education minister, whose wife is Gurnah’s niece. But, he added, “a son from Zanzibar has taken so much pride.”
“The response is fantastic… the young people are proud that he is a Zanzibari,” said Farid Himid, who described himself as a local historian whose father was a Qur’anic teacher to the young Gurnah.
Gurna didn’t visit Zanzibar often, he said, but he has suddenly become the talk of the youth in the semi-autonomous island region.
“And many older people are very happy, Himid said. “Me too, as a Zanzibari. This is a new step in motivating people to read books again, as the internet has taken over.”
The coveted prize comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million). The money comes from a will left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
American poet Lewis Gluecki received last year’s award. Gluck was a popular choice after many years of controversy. In 2018, the award was postponed after allegations of sexual abuse rocked the Swedish Academy, the secret body that chooses the winners. The 2019 award to Austrian author Peter Handke has sparked protests over his strong support for Serbs during the 1990 Balkan wars.
On Monday, the Nobel committee awarded the Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries about how the human body perceives temperature and touch..
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on Tuesday to three scientists whose work appears to be wrong.Helping to explain and predict the complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change.
Benjamin List and David WC Macmillan were named as the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for finding an easy and environmentally clean way to manufacture molecules. Which can be used to make compounds including drugs and pesticides.
The prizes for outstanding work in the field of peace are yet to come on Friday and the prizes for economics on Monday.
Lawless from London and Anna from Nairobi, Kenya reported. Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in London, Chinedu Asadu in Lagos, Nigeria. and Frank Jordan in Berlin contributed.
Read more stories about Nobel Prizes past and present by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes