- Category: TOW 2005
Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He left to pursue his studies in the United Kingdom in 1968. Among his academic achievements are a certificate in Education (1975), B Ed (1976) from University of London, and PhD (1982), University of Kent. He began his career as a schoolteacher in Kent, moving on to a lecturing post at Bayero University in Nigeria, before returning to UK as an English Lecturer at the University of Kent, where he is now Professor of English and Post-Colonial Studies. His main academic interest is in colonial and post-colonial discourses as they relate to African, Caribbean and Indian writing. He is the editor of two volumes of Essays on African Writing and has also published extensively on writers VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Wole Soyinka. A prolific and highly respected academic, Gurnah has contributed to numerous journals, such the Times Literary Supplement, Research in African Literatures and World Literature Today, and participated in a wide range of radio and television broadcasts, including the highly-rated BBC programme Hardtalk. His conference papers have included ‘Writing Back’, University of Surrey Annual Literature Lecture, Guildford, Surrey, June 12 1995, `Imagining the Postcolonial Writer` Enigmas and Arrival, Keynote address at Commonwealth Writers Conference, London, April 30 1997, and `Africa Writing Europe`, Vaxjo University, Sweden, June 12 2003.
Gurnah’s fictional writing, both novels and short stories, have drawn widespread acclaim. His writings are dominated by issues of identity and displacement, and he addresses these from personalised, human histories. Gurnah describes his motivation as the search for ‘something unsaid, something that has never been heard before’ and his stories reflect a profound concern with human stories that are rarely heard and explored. His first three novels Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrim’s Way (1988) and Dottie (1990) document the immigrant experience in contemporary Britain from different narrative perspectives. His fourth novelParadise (1994) is set in colonial East Africa during the first World War and was short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction as well as the Whitbread Prize. The New York Times Book Review hailed the novel as ‘An evocative portrait of Africa on the brink of change.... A poignant meditation on the nature of freedom and the loss of innocence.’
Among his numerous portfolios, Gurnah was associate editor of Wasafiri and is a member of its advisory board, and was Chair of the panel of judges for the 2003 Caine Prize.
Memory of Departure, London: Jonathan Cape 1987
Pilgrims Way, London: Jonathan Cape 1988
Dottie, London: Jonathan Cape 1990
Essays on African Writing, Editor, Oxford: Heinemann 1993
Paradise, London: Hamish Hamilton 1994
Essays on African Writing 2, Editor, Oxford: Heinemann 1995
Admiring Silence, London: Hamish Hamilton 1996
By the Sea, London: Bloomsbury, 2001
Desertion, London, Bloomsbury, 2005