Tanzanian writer in UK Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

UK-based Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose experiences across continents and cultures have led him to write a novel about the impact of migration on individuals and society, won the Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday (7/10).

The Swedish Academy said the award was in recognition of its “uncompromising and compassionate attitude towards the impact of colonialism and the plight of refugees.”

Gurnah, who recently retired as a professor of post-colonial literature at the University of Kent, got a call from The Swedish Academy in the kitchen of his south-eastern England home, and initially thought it was a joke. He said he was “surprised and humbled” to receive the award.

Born in 1948 on the island of Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, Gurnah moved to the UK as a teenage refugee in 1968. He fled the repressive regime that persecuted the Arab-Muslim community to which he belonged.

Gurnah said she “fell in love” to write upon her arrival in the UK as a way to explore the sense of loss and liberation from the emigrant experience.

Gurnah is the author of 10 books, most exploring what he calls “one of the stories of our time,” the real impact of migration on both the people uprooted from their homes and the places where they build new ones.

Gurnah, whose mother tongue is Swahili but writes in English, is the only one of six writers of African descent to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, which has dominated European and North American writers since the academy’s creation in 1901. [em/lt]

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