The 72-year-old writer, born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and a refugee in England in the 1960s, was distinguished on Thursday for his work on the colonial and post-colonial era in East Africa and the torments of refugees trapped between two worlds.
“I write about this condition because I want to write about human interactions, what people go through when they try to rebuild their lives,” Gurnah said at a press conference in London the day after his consecration.
The author did not expect the award: “We write the best we can and hope it works!”
With ten novels, numerous short stories and several books of essays and literary criticism published, Abdulrazak Gurnah insisted that he will continue to speak frankly about the issues that shaped his work and his vision of the world.
Nobel laureate or not, he commented, “it’s my way of talking: I’m not playing a role, I say what I think.”
The fifth African-born author to win the award, Abdulrazak Gurnah fled Zanzibar in 1967 and arrived in England in 1968, where he settled and acquired British nationality.
Although his native language is Swahili, he also learned English in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a British protectorate before his attachment to Tanzania, but despite writing in English, the writer retains a strong connection to his homeland, a connection that feeds the his work.
“I am from Zanzibar, there is no confusion in my spirit about that,” he stressed.
“My work and my life is here” in the UK, “but that’s not what entirely constitutes our imaginary life or our imagined life,” he added.
After half a century in the United Kingdom, Gurnah believes that racism there has decreased, but that the country’s institutions remain “authoritarian”, referring to the example of the “Windrush” scandal over the treatment inflicted on thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean who arrived to the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971, but were deprived of rights for lack of the necessary documents.
“We are witnessing the continuation of the same turpitude”, he continued, before attacking “the error” of the ‘Brexit’ (UK exit from the European Union), in which he sees “something nostalgic and illusory”.
The writer was equally critical of the policies of other European countries, such as Germany, which, in his opinion, “did not face up to its colonial history”.
His latest novel, “Afterlives” (2020), follows the life of a boy stolen from his parents by German colonial troops, who returns to his village to look for his missing parents and sister.
The Nobel criticized the hard line of European governments in relation to immigration from Africa and the Middle East, considering it cruel and illogical.
“In this terrified response — ‘But who are these people coming?!’ — there is a lack of humanity, a lack of compassion”, he pointed out, adding that there is no moral or rational basis for this: people do not arrive with nothing, they arrive with their youth, their energy, their potential” .
“The mere fact of contemplating the idea ‘they are here, they are coming to steal something from our prosperity’ is inhumane”, he defended.
Source: Correio da Manhã by www.cmjornal.pt.
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