Past winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature have included novelists like Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison, poets such as Pablo Neruda, Joseph Brodsky and Rabindranath Tagore, and playwrights including Harold Pinter and Eugene O'Neill. And of course, Bob Dylan, so Abdulrazak Gurnah will be in good company.
Born in Zanzibar, in Gurnah fled his homeland to the UK in the 1960s when the 1964 revolution on the island saw the persecution of citizens of Arab origin. In England, as a student, he began writing. Although Swahili is his first language, most of his work he has written in English. His first novel, Memory of Departure, was published in 1987, while his most recent novel is titled Afterlives.
The Nobel prize is named after Alfred Nobel and comprises of a cash award of 10m Swedish krona (£840,000). The Swedish Academy and the Nobel committee announced in their decision that Gurnah was chosen because of his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”.
Gurnah is the first Black African writer to have won the prize since Wole Soyinka in 1986.