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2021 Nobel Prize for Literature to the Tanzanian Abdulrazack Gurnah

The Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah is the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature. Photo CC

The Nobel Prize committee awarded him for “ his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

During the 5 minutes conversation with the Noble prize academy during which the body collected his reaction, Gurnah said that he first though it was a prank, until he could see to announcement on the official website of the Noble prize.


Gurnah was born in 1948 and grew up on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean but arrived in England as a refugee in the end of the 1960’s. He fled his country when he was 18 years old to escape the persecution faced by the Arabs minority to which his family belonged.

Gurnah has published ten novels and a number of short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work.

He wrote Paradise (1994), his breakthrough as a writer, followed by Admiring Silence (1996) and By the Sea (2001). For him, "Refugees don't come empty handed, they have something to give, they are talented, energetic".

He was Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury. He is now retired. The focus of his lectures were on Wole Soyinka, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Salman Rushdie, among others.

He took to twitter to dedicate his win to Africa and to all Africans.

Gurnah is now one of the few African writers who have won the prestigious prize. Before him, there was the Nigerian Wole Soyinka in 1986, Naguib Mahfouz from Egypt in 1988, and three white African writers :South Africans Nadine Gordimer(1991) and J.M. Coetzee(2003), and the Zimbabwean Doris Lessing(2007).

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