Nobel Prize

Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature

Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature
Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature © Niklas Elmehed, Nobel Prize Outreach

Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for his "uncompromising and compassionate" look at "the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee", the Nobel Committee announced on Thursday.


"I think it's just brilliant and wonderful," Gurnah told Reuters shortly after the prize was announced. "I am very grateful to the Swedish Academy for nominating me and my work."

Gurnah was born in Zanzibar in 1948, according to the Nobel Prize website. He arrived in England in 1968.

He was honoured with the Literature prize "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents", the academy said in its announcement.

The chairman of the Nobel Committee for literature, Anders Olsson, called Gurnah “one of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers”. He said Gurnah's characters “find themselves in the gulf between cultures", caught "between the life left behind and the life to come".  

Gurnah's first three novels – Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrims Way (1988) and Dottie (1990) – describe the experience of immigrants living in modern-day Britain, according to the British Council website. His  novel Paradise (1994) was set in colonial-era east Africa during World War I and made the short list for the Booker Prize. 

Admiring Silence (1996) tells the story of a young man from Zanzibar who emigrates to England, gets married and becomes a teacher. By the Sea (2001) recounts the tale of an elderly asylum-seeker living in a coastal English town.

Gurnah has written 10 novels in all. He lives in Brighton and taught at the University of Kent until his retirement.

According to the university's website, Gurnah's "main academic interest is in postcolonial writing and in discourses associated with colonialism, especially as they relate to Africa, the Caribbean and India".

Gurnah, whose native language is Swahili but who writes in English, is only the sixth Africa-born writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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