Abdulrazak Gurnah at SIBF 2021: My goal is to speak as truthfully and clearly as possible to get the right feel

November 04, 2021

Sharjah - The winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature delights audiences on the opening day of the 40th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair “I write as well as I can be truthful to the idea I want to put across; to make it beautiful,” said Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tanzanian writer and novelist and the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, while speaking to a packed audience at the 40th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair that runs until November 13 in Expo Centre Sharjah.

Gurnah, whose universal tales of the trauma of exile, loss and uprooted lives has resonated with readers around the globe, said: “My goal is to speak as truthfully and clearly as possible to get the right feel. I can ‘hear’ it in my head if the wording is wrong.”

The UK-based 73-year-old writer had left the shores of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, as an 18- year-old, but it is to the waters of the Swahili seas that he returns to, time and again, to build on finely fashioned narratives where rich histories, identities and relationships intertwine.

“I left because I wanted better; I wanted to be fulfilled, even if it meant finding fulfillment elsewhere,” said the author.

The Nobel winner has published 10 novels and numerous short stories, many of which deal with themes of migration and assimilation, and the travails of impermanence. Choosing these subjects is Gurnah’s attempt to bridge the gap between popular narratives of asylum seekers and the silenced histories of the displaced.

Gurnah’s Paradise was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize and presents a portrait of East Africa on the brink of epic change as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old; while By the Sea, longlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize, explores the migrant experience.

His first book, Memories of Departure, published in 1987, almost never came to be, reveals the celebrated author at SIBF. “Writing is a particular kind of activity that requires an idea, crafting, thinking through, and organising, while the writing I did at the time seemed to be mere thoughts and reflections.

At some point, however, my writing took the shape of what looked like a draft.” “A series of rejections from publishers over the course of 12 years made me come pretty close to saying I am not good,”

adds the Nobel Prize winner, who initially thought the Swedish Academy’s call to announce his win was a joke. “The best part of winning the Prize has been to see how much happiness it has

brought to so many people – even those I do not know; and how much celebration there has been in so many parts of the world – and that makes me truly happy.”

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