'Uncompromising' Writer Takes Home Nobel for Literature

Abdulrazak Gurnah of Tanzania began writing as a 21-year-old refugee in exile
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2021 6:33 AM CDT
'Uncompromising' Writer Takes Home Nobel for Literature
A Dec. 8, 2020, file photo of a Nobel medal displayed during a ceremony in New York.   (Angela Weiss/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Newser) – The 2021 Nobel Prize for literature was announced Thursday, an award that has in the past honored poets, novelists, and even a songwriter, Bob Dylan. The AP reports that Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah took home the top award, with the Swedish Academy noting the Nobel was in recognition of Gurnah's "uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."

Born in Zanzibar and based in England, Gurnah is a professor at the University of Kent. His novel Paradise was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994. The author of 10 novels and multiple short stories, Gurnah began writing as a 21-year-old refugee in exile, a theme that permeated much of his work. "Gurnah's dedication to truth and his aversion to simplification are striking," a release notes. "This can make him bleak and uncompromising, at the same time as he follows the fates of individuals with great compassion and unbending commitment."

Last year's prize went to American poet Louise Gluck, who was a popular choice after several years of controversy. In 2018 the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, the secretive body that chooses the winners. The awarding of the 2019 prize to Austrian writer Peter Handke caused protests because of his strong support for the Serbs during the 1990s Balkan wars. The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and more than $1.14 million. Still to come are prizes to be awarded for outstanding work in the fields of peace and economics.
(Read more Nobel Prize for Literature stories.)

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