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A Refugee from the Colonialism

Artblog by Sakadeelite

A Refugee from the Colonialism and a Way of life of Abdulrazak Gurnah, the Nobel Prize laureate in Literature 2021

Abdulrazak Gurnah, 73, was the author of many books reflecting the terror impacts of colonialism and refugees’ fates around the world. Those books were majorly based on his own affliction experience. He authored ten fictional books, copious short stories, and articles. 

Abdulrazak Gurnah
Ill. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach.

Born on Zanzibar Island in the vast Indian Ocean which is now currently part of the United Republic of Tanzania, Gurnah had to flee to England at the age of 18 because of the revolution to overthrow the Sultanate’s government in January 1963. After Zanzibar Island declared its independence from British Empire in December 1963, the great Arab massacre took place, and, consequently, he was forced to emigrate from his hometown where he made a return 20 years thereafter. 

After settling down in England, Gurnah worked at Kent University in Canterberry as a professor of English and post-colonialism literature. He has just retired from his work and become an African author who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2021 after Wole Soyinka was medaled in a similar field in 1986. 

His career started when he was 21 with inspiration from legendary works and authors, such as The Arabian Nights, Shakespeare’s plays, and V. S. Naipaul’s books. Gurnah also related his work to the history of his hometown, Zanzibar Island where Africans previously resided. Soon after, it was the place where Arabian merchants occupied and, finally, colonized by Portugal, Oman, Germany, and the British Empire. 

His first fiction ‘Memory of Departure’ (1987) narrated the story of a gifted protagonist who strived to escape from his alcoholic father who treated him violently in Nairobi. To his dismay, he was not able to run away from his tragic fate. 

The displacement issues in a foreign country have been featured in his third novel called ‘Dottie’ published in 1990. It depicted the story of an African girl whose family migrated to England in 1950. It was the time that racial discrimination became a hot issue in society. This unfortunate experience was expressed in the novels called ‘Admiring Silence’ (1996) and ‘By the Sea’ (2001) reflecting his strong threshold amidst racism, hatred, and prejudice in the community. 

His latest novel ‘Afterlives’ (2020) portrayed a story of the Eastern African region that was once colonized by the Germany Empire in the 20th century before the collapse of the empire in 1919. The mournful life of the local men who sacrificed their lives joining the German Army in World War 1 was illustrated and, finally, their own land and troops were defeated, and became the colony of the British Empire. 

Gurnah’s Nobel prize is worth 10 million Swedish Kronas equivalent to 40 million THB. 

After learning that he was awarded, he posted on his Twitter account (@GurnahAuthor) to thank his readers and he would like to donate his prize to the countries in Africa Continent and African people. Meanwhile, he gave an interview with BBC about the refugees whom he always reflects on their dreadful lives in his lifetime writings that they were dying; they were distressed; we had to take care of this issue. 

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