Penguin Random House has announced that its publishers Salamandra, in Spanish, and La Magrana, in Catalan, will publish the work of the last Nobel Prize winner in Literature, the Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah. The first title to be edited will be By the Sea, originally published in 2001 and which already had a Spanish edition in 2003 (now discontinued) by the Poliedro publishing house – currently defunct – under the title On the shore. The novel recounts an epic story in which two refugees from Zanzibar find themselves in a small coastal town in England.
Later, they will be incorporated into the catalog Paradise (1994), a Booker and Whitbread Award nominated historical novel; Afterlives (2020), in which he recovers the forgotten of the colonial war through the story of a child stolen by German troops, and Desertion (2005), a love story full of contradictions during the last years of colonialism. No release dates have been announced, whether the previous translations will be used or how much their editing rights cost.
Gurnah began writing at the age of 21, when he was a young Tanzanian refugee in the United Kingdom and on October 7, at the age of 73, when he was in his kitchen, he received a call from the Swedish Academy to inform him that he had obtained the highest literary award. As he confessed hours later, he thought it was a joke. In total, he has written 10 novels, and in addition to On the shore, His other two works translated into Spanish are also out of print, published by the also defunct label El Aleph: Precarious silence (1998) and Paradise (1997).
According to Juan José Martín González, doctor in English literature from the University of Malaga, “Gurnah’s narratives inhabit transcultural and multilingual spaces that seem to blur the boundaries between self and other, native and foreigner. The characters of By the Sea (2001) or Desertion (2006), for example, are fluent in English, Swahili, Arabic or Gujarati. They are characters who seem to defy the concept of origin or even the category of nation itself and who find hybridity and multiculturalism a reason for celebration and empowerment. Yet Gurnah is not seduced by the tantalizing idea of an idyllic pre-colonial Africa. His work also delves into the shadows of the African continent ”. The day after the call from the Nobel committee, he explained in London: “I am not playing any role, I speak my mind. I do not consider myself responsible or spokesperson for any cause ”, although he admitted, however, that his immigrant experience is at the heart of everything he writes. He arrived in the United Kingdom at the age of 19, in 1967, and was fleeing a revolution in Zanzibar that overthrew the Arab sultanate of the archipelago. “I am from Zanzibar. There is no doubt about it. But it is the life that I have lived, and the experiences that I have had, that has influenced my writing. And most of my life I have worked and resided in England. I have taught literature in English. Although I do not believe that your life experience is what completely builds what we could call your imaginary or imaginative life ”.
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Salamandra to publish the work of Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah in Spanish