A Quiet Revolution
Abdulrazak Gurnah and Leila Aboulela
In 2021, Abdulrazak Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, the first African-born writer to receive the award in close to 20 years. The Swedish Academy awarded Gurnah the prize «for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents».
Across the world, more and more readers are discovering Gurnah’s body of work. His novels Paradise, Afterlives and Desertion explore the history of East Africa and Zanzibar, while other works, such as Admiring Silence and By the Sea, portray a migrant’s encounter with British society. What they all have in common are the memorable characters created by Gurnah, characters that are not heroes, but rather unique in their quiet everydayness, and who often feel alienated from the world around them.
Through these characters, Gurnah gives us masterful depictions of a region and its history, of the colonial era, of exile and migration. In a quiet revolution, he shifts the perspective from the familiar, Western narrative to an East African point of view, leading us into great history as seen through the eyes of ordinary people.
“Gurnah’s novels are stunningly beautiful, immersive and enticing. He exceeds all others in depicting the lives of those made small by injustice and oppression”, writer Leila Aboulela has said about Gurnah’s writing, with which she has a strong connection. Aboulela grew up in Sudan, and currently lives in Scotland. She has published a number of plays, short story collections and novels, most recently River Spirit.
Aboulela will join Abdulrazak Gurnah for a conversation about his body of work, about writing the history of East Africa, migration, colonial history, and the unique portraits of characters and relationships he gives us in his books.
The event is supported by Norad.