Abdulrazak Gurnah receives his prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in London

London (AFP) – Nobel Laureate in Literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah received the most prestigious literary prize on Monday for his stories on immigration and colonization, at a ceremony in the United Kingdom where the Zanzibar-born novelist lives in exile for more than half a century.

Pandemic obliges, the Nobel in science and literature are given, without the usual pomp, in the countries of the laureates for the second consecutive year.

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In London, Abdulrazak Gurnah received his medal and diploma at noon from the Swedish Ambassador, Mikaela Kumlin Granit, at his official residence, days before a ceremony at the City Hall in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 10, anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel.

“Usually you would have received the award from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden. However, this year the pandemic imposes a celebration on us from a distance. And since you cannot make it to Stockholm, your medal and your diploma of the award Nobel were brought to you here today, ”she said.

– “Empathetic story” –

The Ambassador recalled that the jury had praised her “empathetic and uncompromising account of the effects of colonialism and the fate of refugees caught between cultures and continents”.

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The novelist appeared relaxed and smiling, posing for photographers in a suit and tie with his medal and diploma. Family members and longtime editor Alexandra Pringle attended the event.

Abdulrazak Gurnah, 72, is the first author of African descent to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature since South African JM Coetzee in 2003. He has been consecrated for his accounts of colonial and post-colonial times in Africa. the East and the torments of refugees trapped between two worlds.

The jury which chose to give him this prize, endowed with ten million Swedish crowns (almost 1 million euros), had praised his “attachment to the truth and his aversion to simplification”.

Born in 1948 in Zanzibar – an archipelago off the coast of East Africa which is now part of Tanzania – Abdulrazak Gurnah took refuge in England at the end of the 1960s, a few years after the independence of this former British protectorate, at a time when the Arab community was being persecuted.

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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.

– “I say what I think” –

Young, he had “fallen” 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!”

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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.

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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.

2021 has been a boom 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 prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in London