Abdulrazak Gurnah have been declared the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 today, October 7, 2021.
The Nobel Prize was founded by Swedish businessman, chemist, engineer, inventor, and philanthropist Alfred Nobel. Every year since 1901, the prize is handed out in the categories of peace, chemistry, medicine, and literature. The African and Black winners in the Literature category have been Albert Camus (1957), Wole Soyinka (1986), Naguib Mahfouz (1988), Nadine Gordimer (1991), Derek Walcott (1992), Toni Morrison (1993), and J. M. Coetzee (2003).
The winner for this year’s edition of the Nobel Prize has been announced by the Swedish Academy and it has been awarded to the novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Abdulrazak Gurnah is a Tanzanian novelist, who writes in English and is based in the United Kingdom. The most famous of his novels are Paradise (1994), which was shortlisted for both the Booker and the Whitbread Prize, Desertion (2005), and By the Sea (2001), which was longlisted for the Booker and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. His other titles are Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrims Way (1988), Dottie (1990), Admiring Silence (1996), The Last Gift (2011), Gravel Heart (2017), and Afterlives (2020) which made the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2021 shortlist. He also wrote the short story collection My Mother Lived on a Farm in Africa (2006). He was also a professor of English at the University of Kent and was a Man Booker Prize judge in 2016.
The Nobel Prize went on to elaborate in a twitter thread;
“#NobelPrize laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah’s dedication to truth and his aversion to simplification are striking. His novels recoil from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world.
In Gurnah’s literary universe, everything is shifting – memories, names, identities. An unending exploration driven by intellectual passion is present in all his books, and equally prominent now in ‘Afterlives’ (2020), as when he began writing as a 21-year-old refugee.
Abdulrazak Gurnah consciously breaks with convention, upending the colonial perspective to highlight that of the indigenous populations. Thus, his novel ‘Desertion’ (2005) about a love affair becomes a blunt contradiction to what he has called “the imperial romance”.
In Abdulrazak Gurnah’s treatment of the refugee experience, focus is on identity and self-image. Characters find themselves in a hiatus between cultures and continents, between a life that was and a life emerging; it is an insecure state that can never be resolved.”
Abdulrazak Gurnah has made history in many ways with this award. He is the first Black winner of the award since Toni Morrison in 1993, the second Black African person after Wole Soyinka and the first East and Southern African.
In an interview with the Nobel Prize he says of the winning the prize, “I am still taking it in man.” Watch the full chat below;