Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Gurnah is the author of 10 novels including Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award) and By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award). He has also authored several short stories. A professor of English and the director of graduate studies at the University of Kent, Gurnah was also a Booker Prize judge in 2016.
As per the Swedish Academy, Gurnah, born in 1948, grew up on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean but arrived in England as a refugee in the end of the 1960s. “The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work,” the academy noted.
Annie Ernaux, Margaret Atwood, Jamaica Kincaid, Maryse Condé, Dubravka Ugresic and Nuruddin Farah were among the other top contenders for the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Other authors who were predicted to win this year included Haruki Murakami, Anne Carson, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Peter Nadas, Jon Fosse, Don DeLillo, Dubravka Ugrešić, Hélène Cixous, Javier Marías, Mircea Cărtărescu and Can Xue.
Nominations of the Nobel Prize are a closely guarded secret. According to the Nobel Prize Organisation, the statutes of the Nobel Foundation restrict the disclosure of information about the nominations, whether publicly or privately, for 50 years.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 113 times to 117 Nobel Prize laureates, majorly dominated by Europeans and North Americans with only 16 women winning the prize.
Louise Glück, the New York-based writer, bagged the prize in 2020 for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. Failing all predictions, Glück won the prize last year. The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019 was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke, a decision that prompted severe backlash and criticism due to Handke’s alleged denial of crimes committed by the Serbs during the 1990 war in erstwhile Yugoslavia.
While the Nobel Prize for Peace will be announced on Friday, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced on Monday and has been awarded jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.