Stockholm: UK-based Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose work explores the profound impact of migration on uprooted people and the places they make their new homes, won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday. The Swedish Academy said the award was in recognition of Gurnah’s “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Gurnah, who recently retired as a professor of post-colonial literature at the University of Kent, got the call from the Swedish Academy in the kitchen of his home in southeast England. “I’m absolutely excited,” he told The Associated Press. “I just heard the news myself.” Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah moved to Britain as a teenage refugee after an uprising on the Indian Ocean island in 1968. He is the author of 10 novels, including “Memory of Departure,” “Pilgrims Way,” “Paradise” — shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994 — “By the Sea” and “Desertion.”
Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for literature, called him “one of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers.” He said it was significant that Gurnah’s roots are in Zanzibar, a place that “was cosmopolitan long before globalization bonus.” “His work gives us a vivid and very precise picture of another Africa not so well known for many readers, a coastal area in and around the Indian Ocean marked by slavery and shifting forms of repression under different regimes and colonial powers: Portuguese, Indian, Arab, German and the British,” Olsson said.