“Writing [came] out of the situation that I was in, which was poverty, homesickness, being unskilled, uneducated. So out of that misery you begin to write things down. It wasn’t like: I’m writing a novel. But this kept growing, this stuff. Then it started to become ‘writing’ because you have to think and construct and shape and so on.”
Abdulrazak Gurnah FRSL won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” He is best known for his books Paradise (1994), By The Sea (2001), and Desertion (2005). Born on December 20, 1948 in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, present-day Tanzania, he left as a refugee at age 18, arriving in England in 1968. He is currently an Emeritus Professor of English and Postcolonial Literature at the University of Kent.
Illustration by Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach.