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Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel Prize in literature

Oct 7, 2021

The Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to the novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, for his "uncompromising and passionate" portrayals of the effects of colonialism.

Gurnah was born in Tanzania in 1948 but moved to England at a young age. He has written 10 novels, many of which focus on the refugee experience. His 1994 novel "Paradise," which told the story of a boy growing up in Tanzania in the early 20th century, won the Booker Prize and marked his breakthrough as a novelist.
"Gurnah's dedication to truth and his aversion to simplification are striking," the Nobel Committee for Literature said in a statement. "This can make him bleak and uncompromising, at the same time as he follows the fates of individuals with great compassion and unbending commitment." His 2001 book "By the Sea" follows a refugee living in a British seaside town. And his most recent work, "Afterlives," picks up the narrative of "Paradise" and takes place during the German colonization of Africa.
His 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," the committee said.
Prior to his retirement Gurnah, 73, was also a professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent in England.
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The committee's decision to recognize a writer whose works tackle the themes of displacement, asylum and migration comes amid a years-long migrant crisis in Europe that has intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I don't think the acute situation right now in Europe and around the Mediterranean has affected this prize because the phenomenon of exile and migration has been there for many years," Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel literature committee, told reporters after the award was announced on Thursday.

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