SMA NEWS – STOCKHOLM
Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in literature for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugees in the gulf between cultures and continents.
The UK-based author has written 10 novels, many of which focus on the refugee experience.
His 1994 novel “Paradise,” which told the story of a boy growing up in Tanzania in the early 20th century, won the Booker Prize and marked his breakthrough as a novelist.
“Gurnah’s dedication to truth and his aversion to simplification are striking,” the Nobel Committee for Literature said in a statement. “This can make him bleak and uncompromising, at the same time as he follows the fates of individuals with great compassion and unbending commitment.”
Born on Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah moved to Britain as a teenage refugee after an uprising on the Indian Ocean island in 1968.
Recently he retired as a professor of post-colonial literature at the University of Kent.
Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for literature, called him “one of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers.”
He said Gurnah’s characters “find themselves in the gulf between cultures … between the life left behind and the life to come, confronting racism and prejudice, but also compelling themselves to silence the truth or reinventing a biography to avoid conflict with reality.”
Gurnah, whose native language is Swahili but who writes in English, is only the sixth Africa-born- writer to be awarded the Nobel for literature.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
Last year’s prize went to American poet Louise Glück for what the judges described as her “unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”
Glück was a popular choice after several years of controversy. In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, the secretive body that chooses the winners. The awarding of the 2019 prize to Austrian writer Peter Handke caused protests because of his strong support for the Serbs during the 1990s Balkan wars