New Delhi: U.K.-based Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday for works that explore the legacies of imperialism on uprooted individuals. The Swedish Academy said the award was in recognition of his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”Also Read - Nobel Prize 2021 In Economics Awarded To David Card, Joshua Angrist And Guido Imbens

Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for literature, called him “one of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers.” Also Read - Journalist Maria Ressa And Dmitry Muratov Win Nobel Peace Prize 2021 For Their Efforts To Defend Freedom Of Expression

He said Gurnah’s characters “find themselves in the gulf between cultures … between the life left behind and the life to come, confronting racism and prejudice, but also compelling themselves to silence the truth or reinventing a biography to avoid conflict with reality.” Also Read - Nobel Prize In Literature 2021 Awarded To Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Gurnah is the first black African author to have won the award since Wole Soyinka in 1986.

Who is Abdulrazak Gurnah:

  • Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 and grew up on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean but arrived in England as a refugee in the end of the 1960’s.
  • Gurnah belonged to the victimised ethnic group and after finishing school was forced to leave his family and flee the country, by then the newly formed Republic of Tanzania.
  • The writer has until his recent retirement been Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury.
  • Gurnah has published ten novels and a number of short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work.
  • He began writing as a 21-year-old in English exile, and even though Swahili was his first language, English became his literary tool.
  • He has said that in Zanzibar, his access to literature in Swahili was virtually nil and his earliest writing could not strictly be counted as literature.
  • In all his work, Gurnah has striven to avoid the ubiquitous nostalgia for a more pristine pre-colonial Africa.
  • Gurnah’s writing is from his time in exile but pertains to his relationship with the place he had left, which means that memory is of vital importance for the genesis of his work.
  • His debut novel, Memory of Departure, from 1987, is about a failed uprising and keeps us on the African continent.
  • In the second work, Pilgrims Way from 1988, Gurnah explores the multifaceted reality of life in exile.
  • He wrote his third novel, Dottie in 1990. It was about a black woman of immigrant background growing up in harsh conditions in racially charged 1950’s England.
  • Gurnah’s fourth novel, Paradise (1994), his breakthrough as a writer, evolved from a research trip to East Africa around 1990. The novel was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the year of its release.
  • His latest novel, the magnificent Afterlives from 2020, takes up where Paradise ends. And as in that work, the setting is the beginning of the 20th century, a time before the end of German colonisation of East Africa in 1919.

The Nobel Prizes, which have been awarded since 1901, recognise achievement in literature, science, peace and latterly economics.

Past winners have included novelists such as Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison, poets such as Pablo Neruda, Joseph Brodsky and Rabindranath Tagore, and playwrights including Harold Pinter and Eugene O’Neill.

Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill won for his memoirs, Bertrand Russell for his philosophy and Bob Dylan for his lyrics.