The Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah of Zanzibar, Tanzania

Abdulrazak Gurnah reads for a Canterbury Cathedral project in Canterbury, Britain June 2021, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 was awarded to 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.”

His novels include “Paradise”, set in colonial East Africa during World War One and short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction, and “Desertion.” Anders Olsson, head of the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Committee for Literature, told reporters “Gurnah’s itinerant characters in England or on the African continent find themselves in the gulf between cultures and continents, between the life left behind and the life to come,” “I dedicate this Nobel Prize to Africa and Africans and to all my readers. Thanks!” Gurnah tweeted after the announcement.

He left Africa as a refugee in the 1960s amid the persecution of citizens of Arab origin on the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar, which would unite with the mainland territory Tanganyika to form Tanzania. He was able to return only in 1984, seeing his father shortly before his death.

His selection for the top honour in literature comes at a time of global tensions around migration, as millions of people flee violence and poverty in places such as Syria, Afghanistan and Central America, or are displaced by climate change, often taking tremendous risks during their passages.

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