On Thursday, the award-giving body stated that Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, 72, won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his uncomprising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and fate of the refugee.”
Gurnah, whose novels include Paradise and Desertion, writes in English and lives in Britain. He grew up on the island of Zanzibar, and arrived in England as a refugee at the end of the 1960s.
Based in Britain, Gurnah is the first African writer to win the award since Zimbabwean Doris Lessing in 2007, and only the second writer of colour from sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka, who won in 1986. His novels include “Paradise”, which is set in colonial East Africa during the First World War and was short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction and “Desertion”.
Ander Olsson, head of the Swedish Academy Nobel Committee, stated, “In his ten novels he has consistently and with great passion penetrated the effects of colonialism in East Africa and its effects on the lives of uprooted and migrating individuals.” Olsson added that the committee’s choice was not a response to recent headlines and it had been following Gurnah’s work for years.
Gurnah expressed his joy by stating, “I think its just brilliant and wonderful. It’s just great – its just a big prize and such a huge list of wonderful writers – I am still taking it. It was a complete surprise that I really had to wait until I heard it announced before I could believe it.”