Monday, November 1, 2021



This year Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah. Swedish academy acknowledges his achievement of ‘uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents’. Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 on the island of Zanzibar, Africa. He has emigrated to Britain as a student at the age of 20. He has done his Ph.D. at the age of 34. He was Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Kent's Department of English. According to the literary critics, he is ‘one of the most subtle and perceptive writers of our postcolonial world and its uprooted lives’. For decades, his novels have created an intoxicating, complex tapestry out of the experiences of colonialism, revolution, exile, and migration. 

Abdulrazak Gurnah has published ten novels and several short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption and displacement runs throughout his work. He began writing as a 21-year-old immigrant in England. Although Swahili was his first language, English is the language he took up to explore through his creative brilliance. It has become a trend for immigrants not to use their native languages. We should notice, mostly all these immigrant writers and creative persons are from third-world countries. And eventually, they like to settle in Europe and USA. So, to survive and thrive as a successful citizen they use the language of the land where they settle. It allows them to become famous internationally. It helps immensely to gain popularity and acclamation among the people of their chosen land. So, they abandon their native language as a literary tool. This trend may enrich the literature and language of the land where they settle but, it never enriches the literature and languages of the lands from where they emigrate. It is an ongoing tragedy of the post-colonialism era for the countries and cultures of Africa and Asia. Novelist and writer Abdulrazak Gurnah has followed the same path. He has emerged as one of the contemporary writers of the English language and literature. And this Nobel prize acknowledges this trend.

Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy wrote, “Gurnah’s dedication to truth and his aversion to simplification is striking. This can make him bleak and uncompromising, at the same time as he follows the fates of individuals with great compassion and unbending commitment. His novels recoil from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world. In Gurnah’s literary universe, everything is shifting – memories, names, identities. This is probably because his project cannot reach completion in any definitive sense. An unending exploration driven by intellectual passion is present in all his books, and equally prominent now, in Afterlives, as when he began writing as a 21-year-old refugee.”

According to Gurnah’s longtime editor, Alexandra Pringle, his win was “most deserved” for a writer who has not previously received due recognition. She elaborated further, “He is one of the greatest living African writers, and no one has ever taken any notice of him.” Pringle said Gurnah had always written about displacement, “but in the most beautiful and haunting ways of what it is that uproots people and blows them across continents”. Alexandra acclaims him as one of the greatest African writers. True, but not for Africa and its culture and literature but international readers. In my personal view, this is an ongoing tragedy for African and Asian countries. The literary and cultural progress of the countries with colonial hangovers is suffering immensely. Yet we never give due notice to it. I know, others would assert, this trend of writing in an international language instead of a native language spreads literature beyond the cultural boundaries of native languages of the third world countries. I would never deny that fact. Also, we should never forget that almost all the great literary works of Europe were the product of the native languages such as Greek, French, Russian, German, Italian, Spanish, and alike. Most of the famous literary figures of Europe had always used their native languages. Yet are well known around the whole world through translated versions of their works. But for the countries with colonial hangovers, this trend of immigrant writers and their literary activities in languages, not their own has become an international trend.

Again, let’s go through the view of Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy. According to him. Gurnah has striven to avoid ‘the ubiquitous nostalgia for a more pristine pre-colonial Africa.’ I think this is an important assessment of the literary world of Abdulrazak Gurnah. One can debate over the pros and cons of pre-colonial Africa. One cannot deny the importance of the pre-colonial roots of African culture. As readers, those of us; who have never gone through the literary work of Abdulrajak Gurnah, we cannot judge the writer and his work. Still, as a reader of literature, we acknowledge the importance of the cultural roots of any literary tradition. Anders Olsson continues with his assertion, ‘Gurnah’s writing is from his time in exile but pertains to his relationship with the place he had left, which means that memory is of vital importance for the genesis of his work’. Again, let us not forget that memory and cultural root are not synonymous with each other. They may come into contact with each other. They may also remain indifferent.

The Nobel prize for literature has been awarded 118 times. Let us hope one day, it'll be conferred to one of the poets participating in the monthly web journal: Our Poetry Archive. Relentlessly we are trying our best to nurture various literary traditions around the world. We hope it’ll help others to promote their creativity to the world audience of readers. With this issue of OPA, November '2021, we have published 80 volumes of poetry since April 2015. This month we are presenting poet SHUROUK HAMMOUD of Syria as the 'Poet of The Month'. We are also publishing an interview of the poet and five of her best poems in this present issue. We hope our readers will enjoy both of her poems and the interview.


NilavoNill Shoovro

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