The Nobel prize ceremony is literature’s greatest show of the year and the jury ensures that only the best make it to the podium. Each year, the literature community is abuzz with speculations regarding the potential winner. The wait came to an end on Thursday when this year’s victor was declared.
About the Prize
The Nobel Prizes, which have been awarded since 1901, recognise achievement in literature, science and peace. As stated by Alfred Nobel in his will, the Nobel Prize in Literature is given to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” The 18-member Swedish Academy selects the Nobel Laureates in Literature. Nominations come from members of the Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers’ organisations. However, it is against the rules to nominate oneself.
Winner of 2021
Abdulrazak Gurnah was preparing a cup of tea in the kitchen of his Canterbury home on Thursday when he received the auspicious call, telling him that he had won the most esteemed prize in the field of Literature. He admitted, that he didn’t have the slightest idea that he was being considered for the award.
A novelist and academic based in the United Kingdom, Gurnah was bestowed with the Nobel Prize for his eminent contributions to literature. In the words of the academy, the prize motivation was “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
About the winner
Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah was displaced from his country and was forced to take refuge in Britain as a young teenager. His books pronouncedly detail the struggles of refugees who sought asylum in other countries. In the 1960s, the Arab Muslims fled Zanzibar to shield themselves from the oppressive regimes that persecuted their community. After reaching England, Gurnah found solace in writing which helped him cope with the loss of his home. He soon became a member of the faculty, at the University of Kent, following the completion of his studies in Canterbury. Gurnah proceeded to have an illustrious career in both academics and writing. The settings in his stories are diverse, ranging from East Africa under German colonialism to modern-day England. Many of Gurnah’s characters deal with the dilemma of leaving their old lives behind and prepare for the life to come, finding themselves in a gulf between cultures while confronting racism and prejudice. He has authored ten novels, throughout his life with three of them featuring in the Man Booker shortlists — “Memory of Departure,” “Pilgrims Way,” “Paradise”. The novels have left a profound impact all across the world, by highlighting the issues of migration, focusing mainly on uprooted people and the places they make their new homes. His work’s relevance has increased even more now, as the world witnesses the large-scale displacement of the Afghan natives.
Past winners have included novelists such as Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison, poets such as Pablo Neruda, Joseph Brodsky and Rabindranath Tagore, and playwrights including Harold Pinter and Eugene O’Neill.