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Gurnah, a literature nobel for all Est Africa

Tanzanian writer overcome kenyan Ngugi Wa Thiongo

08-10-2021 by Gianluca Camorani

A Nobel Prize for literature in East Africa, I still can't believe it.
That's right, because every time I see the friendly face of Enzo Nucci, the historic correspondent for RAI's Nairobi office for all of Sub-Saharan Africa, appear on television, I have an uncontrollable temptation to stick my hand in the front pocket of my jeans and hope for the best.
This is not because I do not consider Nucci a good journalist or think he is a jinx, but because every time an Italian TV news station connects or broadcasts a report from Africa, it is only to report tragedies.
In the collective imagination of the West, Africa is just an inhospitable, dirty, sultry place where diseases, wars, ferocious animals and poverty reign and from which everyone wants to escape.
On the other hand, from a political standpoint, no African country carries any international weight, no one is a member of the G20, the melting pot of the powerful who decide the fate of the planet and when they are invited to major world meetings, it is only to talk about their "misfortunes", epidemics, armed conflicts and management of migratory flows. To get some attention from the media in rich countries, Africa needs a good dose of misfortune.
Thinking of Africa as a place of culture (in the western sense of the term) is almost impossible for the average "mzungu", except to associate it with tribal rhythms and dances with bongos, drums, straw skirts and local folklore.
The 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Tanzanian writer Abulzarak Gurnah is also good news for that, finally associating the name of Africa with a positive event, a recognition dedicated to the entire continent as motivated by Swedish academics.
Not to mention the fact that his Kenyan colleague, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, made it into the nominations for the third time and was more likely than him to win!
Gurnah was not the first citizen of the black continent to win the coveted award, the Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka had already done so in 1986, but in addition to the fact that 35 years have passed, Abdulzarak, although he writes in English and lives in London, is the first to speak Kiswahili as his first language and writes for a magazine called "wasafiri" (travelers).
In short, he has all the prerequisites to become a new "hero" for us Italian/Kenyan Maldafricans.
P.S. I haven't read anything by Gurnah yet, so I can't review him, I'll do it soon.
For all the curious and contented like me, here is the essential bibliography of the Zanzibar-born writer and essayist.
Novels
Memory of Departure 1987
Pilgrims Way 1988
Dottie 1990
Paradise 1994 translated into Italian - Garzanti
Admiring Silence 1996
By the Sea 2001 translated in Italian - Garzanti
Desertion 2005 (il disertore) translated in Italian - Garzanti
The Last Gift 2011
Gravel Heart 2017
Afterlives 2020

Short stories collections
The collected stories of Abdulrazak Gurnah 2004
My Mother Lived on a Farm in Africa 2006

Essays
Essays on African writing . 1993-1995
The Cambridge Companion to Salman Rushdie 2007

TAGS: nobel kenyascrittori kenyaletteratura africaest africa

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