SOAS University of London

SOAS congratulates Nobel Prize winner, Abdulrazak Gurnah

7 October 2021

SOAS University of London has warmly welcomed the award of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature to Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

The Swedish Academy has praised Gurnah for for his "uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism".

Director of SOAS, Adam Habib said: "I want to offer my warmest congratulations to Abdulrazak Gurnah from everyone at SOAS. This award is a mark of the vital importance of the postcolonial voice in world literature, and the outstanding contribution which he has made. At SOAS, we will continue to support and champion these voices, in collaboration with leading institutions in nations in Africa and across the world."

Gurnah has been associated with academic activity at SOAS for many years - collaborating with SOAS academics at international conferences both here and in other institutions and countries, acting as an external examiner on SOAS degree programmes, and giving the Centre for African Studies Lecture in 2013.

The theme of postcolonial approaches is an important part of SOAS academic work and teaching - including with the work of the SOAS Centre for Centre for Cultural, Literary, Postcolonial Studies, the Centre for English Studies, and the Centre of African Studies.

SOAS academic Dr Kai Easton, who has taught Gurnah's work at SOAS for more than a decade, said: "Abdulrazak is a superb novelist, a most generous friend and colleague, whose work has made a great impact on me and so many of our students. His extraordinary contribution to literature travels far and wide across the Indian Ocean, where he was born (in Zanzibar), to the Atlantic (in the UK), where he has long made his home as Professor of English at the University of Kent. This is a wonderful accolade that celebrates a writer who, with considerable nuance and a discerning eye, consistently crosses boundaries, asking difficult questions about the legacies and entanglements of colonial history, migrancy, diaspora, and inheritance."

Dr Ida Hadjivayanis who is currently translating his first novel into Swahili said: "As a Tanzanian of Zanzibar origin, Gurnah's work has always spoken to me at a very personal level. This win is simply groundbreaking! Gurnah unapologically uses Swahili terms in his writing, thus reinforcing the importance of language. He speaks the truth by pushing away the colonial perspective. I am simply thrilled beyond words."