Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah, who has just won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, has always been one of the world’s great writers – the Nobel award has simply confirmed this, says New African editor Anver Versi.
The news that Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature has been greeted with great jubilation in Africa’s increasingly influential literary community and the general public in the East African countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
The Swedish Academy, announced on 7 October 2021, “The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2021 is awarded to the novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, born in Zanzibar and active in England, ‘for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents‘.”
The committee also praised his “recoil from stereotypical descriptions and [opening] our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world.”
This is the first time that anyone from East Africa has been awarded the Nobel Prize – and completes the African regional circle of Nobel Literature laureates. Until now, four African writers had won the world’s most prestigious award in literature: Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka, Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz and the South Africans Nadine Gordimer and John Maxwell Coetzee. Gurna’s award brings the total African laureates to five.