Sameer Rahim at Prospect Magazine:
When Abdulrazak Gurnah was growing up in the 1950s in Zanzibar, a small island off the east African coast, he could not imagine a career as a writer. Though there were poets and storytellers, there were no literary publishers. At school he was taught the English canon. “You realise, in that literature, you’re completely and totally absent,” he tells me, “or present in some kind of diminished form.” But after moving to Britain in 1968, he did become a writer and, across 10 novels, has drawn on his island’s rich history to fill in those absences. In October, this quietly spoken man—always respected but hardly a household name—won the Nobel Prize in literature.
The decision delighted me, but I must admit a bias. My father also grew up in Zanzibar in the 1950s and I have read Gurnah’s work as much to learn about my family history as for its literary merit.