Gurnah was born in 1948 and grew up on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean but arrived in England as a refugee in the end of the 1960’s. He has published ten novels and a number of short stories. The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work.

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2021 was awarded to the novelist “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”.

Abdulrazak Gurnah is the author of eight novels: Memory of DeparturePilgrims WayDottieParadise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award), Admiring SilenceBy the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), and The Last Gift.

Memory of Departure

Memory of Departure: : Abdulrazak Gurnah: Bloomsbury Paperbacks

Gurnah’s first novel is set in a squalid coastal city in an East African country that resembles the author’s native Tanzania, in the years following its independence from Great Britain. The narrator (Hassan) is a teenage boy who seeks to escape from his drunken and depraved father, who is a local government official, and the prejudice that limits opportunities of Arabs like himself. He finishes high school and awaits the result of the examination that will determine his future, but months have passed by without notification. His mother encourages him to visit her brother, who has become a wealthy businessman in Nairobi. There the wise if not worldly Hassan is exposed to a life he can only dream of, an opulent home with rich food, all the luxuries of modern life, and a beautiful cousin that seems to favor him. However, the veneer of this idyllic life is quickly uncovered by Hassan, as he learns more about his uncle and his past, and as he sees the rampant corruption and hypocrisy that infests this modern African city.


Read Memory of Departure Online by Abdulrazak Gurnah | Books

Gravel Heart is a powerful story of exile, migration and betrayal. Evoking the immigrant experience with unsentimental precision and profound insight, Gravel Heart is a powerfully affecting story of isolation, identity, belonging and betrayal, and is Abulrazak Gurnah’s most dazzling achievement.


Afterlives eBook by Abdulrazak Gurnah | Rakuten Kobo


Restless, ambitious Ilyas was stolen from his parents by the Schutzruppe askari, the German colonial troops; after years away, he returns to his village to find his parents gone, and his sister Afiya given away.

Hamza was not stolen, but was sold; he has come of age in the schutztruppe, at the right hand of an officer whose control has ensured his protection but marked him for life.

The century is young. The Germans and the British and the French and the Belgians and whoever else have drawn their maps and signed their treaties and divided up Africa. As they seek complete dominion they are forced to extinguish revolt after revolt by the colonised. The conflict in Europe opens another arena in east Africa where a brutal war devastates the landscape. Hamza does not have words for how the war ended for him. Returning to the town of his childhood, all he wants is work, however humble, and security – and the beautiful Afiya.

As these interlinked friends and survivors come and go, live and work and fall in love, the shadow of a new war lengthens and darkens, ready to snatch them up and carry them away.


Read Memory of Departure Online by Abdulrazak Gurnah | Books

The arrival of Independence brings new upheavals as well as the betrayal of the promise of freedom. The new government, fearful of an exodus of its most able men, discourages young people from travelling abroad and refuses to release examination results. Deprived of a scholarship, Hassan travels to Nairobi to stay with a wealthy uncle, in the hope that he will release his mother’s rightful share of the family inheritance.

The collision of past secrets and future hopes, the compound of fear and frustration, beauty and brutality, create a fierce tale of undeniable power.


Books by Abdulrazak Gurnah and Complete Book Reviews

The Novel follows an East African immigrant living in a small English town as he and his family reckon with his past, which has long been shrouded in mystery. After suffering a debilitating stroke at age 63, Abbas suddenly wants to speak for the first time about the youthful decisions that drove him to leave his native Zanzibar, become a sailor, and eventually marry and settle down in England. As his wife, Maryam, and their children, Hanna and Jamal, care for the ailing Abbas, they too find themselves confronting their memories. Maryam, for her part, recalls her childhood as a foundling without parents or ancestry, which drove her to cling to Abbas and compromise her dreams. In the meantime, the rebellious Hanna and her English lover, Nick, encounter his family’s condescension and bigotry, while the contemplative grad student Jamal finds love and discovers his vocation as a writer. Over the course of this haunting novel, the dying Abbas prepares a last gift of memory for his wife and children.