Posted on Oct 7, 2021, 1:53 PMUpdated Oct 7, 2021, 4:00 PM
On Thursday, October 7, the Nobel Prize for Literature crowned Abdulrazak Gurnah, a writer of Tanzanian origin living in the United Kingdom. The 72-year-old novelist, who teaches literature at the University of Kent, has been honored for his story “Empathetic and uncompromising of the effects of colonialism and the fate of refugees caught between cultures and continents”, according to the Swedish Academy. Abdulrazak Gurnah is the first black author, since 1993, to receive the most prestigious literary award. His work moves away from “Stereotypical descriptions and opens our eyes to an East Africa, culturally diverse, little known in many parts of the world”, explained the jury.
Born in 1948 in Zanzibar, which he fled in 1968 at a time when the Muslim minority was being persecuted, Abdulrazak Gurnah has published ten books since 1987. His first three novels, “Memory of Departure” (1987), ” Pilgrims Way ”(1988) and“ Dottie ”(1990), evoke the experience of immigrants in contemporary British society. His fourth and best-known novel, “Paradise” (1994), is set in colonial East Africa during World War I and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, a British literary prize.
“Admiring Silence” (1996) tells the story of a young man who leaves Zanzibar and emigrates to England where he gets married and becomes a teacher. A return to his native country 20 years later deeply disturbs his relationship with himself and his marriage. “Near the Sea” (2001), awarded the RFI Witness of the World literary prize in 2007, tells the story of Saleh Omar, an elderly asylum seeker living in an English seaside town.
“Rooted in the colonial history of the African East, rustling with Swahili legends, served by a bewitching language, Gurnah’s tales navigate between the initiatory tale, the exploration of the pains of exile, autobiographical introspection and meditation on the human condition e “, noted in 2010 the Franco-Djiboutian writer Abdourahman A. Waberi in Le Monde diplomatique. Gurnah “Offers us melancholy, disenchanted and superbly embodied works”, he added, in this review of the book “Desertion”, published in France under the name “Adieu Zanzibar”.
Last year, the American poet Louise Glück received the Nobel for her work “Of austere beauty”. This year, speculation has revolved around the Academy’s promise to broaden its geographic horizons. Even if the president of the Nobel committee Anders Olsson had taken care to reaffirm at the beginning of the week that the “Literary merit” remained “the absolute and unique criterion”.
The prize is historically very Western and since 2012 and the Chinese Mo Yan, only Europeans or North Americans had been crowned. Of the 117 previous laureates in literature since the creation of the prizes in 1901, 95, or more than 80% are Europeans or North Americans. With the 2021 prize, there are 102 men on the prize list for 16 women.
After science at the start of the week, the Nobel season continues Friday October 8 in Oslo with peace, to end on Monday 11 with the economy.
The last ten winners
2020: Louise Glück (United States)
2019: Peter Handke (Austria)
2018: Olga Tokarczuk (Poland)
2017: Kazuo Ishiguro (United Kingdom)
2016: Bob Dylan (United States)
2015: Svetlana Alexievitch (Belarus)
2014: Patrick Modiano (France)
2013: Alice Munro (Canada)
2012: Mo Yan (China)
2011: Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden)
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Abdulrazak Gurnah Nobel Prize for Literature 2021