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Writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, a former refugee from Zanzibar, receives his Nobel Prize for Literature in London on Monday. He is the first author of African origin to receive this distinction since 2003.
Abdulrazak Gurnah receives, Monday, December 6, the Nobel Prize for Literature, the most prestigious literary prize, for his stories on immigration and colonization, during a ceremony in the United Kingdom where the novelist born in Zanzibar lives in exile for over half a century.
Pandemic obliges, the Nobel in science and literature are awarded for the second consecutive year without the usual pomp in the countries of the laureates.
In London, Abdulrazak Gurnah will receive his medal and diploma at midday by the Swedish Ambassador at his official residence. The prize is endowed with 10 million Swedish kronor (almost 1 million euros).
Abdulrazak Gurnah, 72, is the first author of African descent to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature since the South African JM Coetzee, in 2003. He has been consecrated for his stories about colonial and post-colonial times in Africa. of the East and on the torments of refugees trapped between two worlds.
The jury praised his “empathetic and uncompromising account of the effects of colonialism and the fate of refugees caught between cultures and continents”. He also praised his “attachment to the truth and his aversion to simplification.”
Born in 1948 in Zanzibar – an archipelago off the coast of East Africa that is now part of Tanzania – Abdulrazak Gurnah took refuge in England in the late 1960s, a few years after the independence of this former British protectorate, at a time when the Arab community was being persecuted.
He began writing at the age of 21 in the United Kingdom, where he acquired his nationality, inspired by his memories and his immigrant experience. “I want to write about human interactions, what people go through when they rebuild their lives,” he said at a press conference, the day after his consecration in early October.
“Fell” in writing
In a column in the British daily The Guardian in 2004, he explained that he “fell” into writing, without having foreseen it. And he didn’t see the supreme reward coming: “You write the best you can, and you hope it works!”
Author sometimes unrecognized before the Nobel, the writer has published ten novels, three of which have been translated into French (“Paradis”, “Près de la Mer” and “Adieu Zanzibar”), as well as several short stories. He writes in English even though his original language is primarily Swahili.
He now lives in Brighton, in the south-east of England, and taught literature at the University of Kent until his retirement.
Nobel Prize or not, the novelist assured that he would continue to speak frankly about the questions which shaped his work and his vision of the world. “It’s my way of speaking,” he said, “I don’t play a role, I say what I think.”
He thus castigates the hard line of European governments on immigration from Africa and the Middle East, considering it cruel and illogical.
His latest book, “Afterlives” follows a little boy stolen from his parents by German colonial troops and who returns to his village to find his missing parents and sister.
The year 2021 has been a prosperous year for African literature, with three major prizes – the Nobel, the Booker Prize and the Goncourt – won by African writers.
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Abdulrazak Gurnah receives his Nobel Prize for Literature in London