The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2021 has been awarded to Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, according to the award-giving organisation.
The Swedish Academy bestowed the renowned medal to Gurnah on Thursday, citing his “uncompromising and humane comprehension of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Gurnah, who was born in Zanzibar and now lives in England, just retired as a post-colonial literary professor at the University of Kent.
He’s written ten books and a collection of short stories. He is best known for his 1994 novel “Paradise,” which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction and is set in colonial East Africa during World War I.
In the kitchen of his house in southeast England, Gurnah received a call from the Swedish Academy.
When asked how he felt about winning the prize, Gurnah told Reuters, “I think it’s just great and wonderful.” “It’s really fantastic — such a large reward, and such a long list of fantastic writers – I’m still taking it all in,” he remarked.
“It was such a huge shock that I had to wait until I heard it proclaimed before believing it.”
“One of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers,” said Anders Olsson, head of the Nobel Committee for Literature.
The prize includes a gold medal and ten million Swedish kronor ($1.14 million).
Gurnah would have received the Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of physicist Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896, who established the rewards in his last will and testament.
However, because to the pandemic, the in-person celebration has been cancelled for the second year in a row and replaced by a televised ceremony in which the laureates receive their prizes in their home countries.
Since the first Nobel Prize in Literature was granted in 1901, 95 of the 118 laureates have been Europeans or North Americans, accounting for more than 80% of the total.
Last year’s prize went to American poet Louise Gluck for her “unmistakable literary voice that makes individual existence universal with austere beauty,” according to the judges.
After years of controversy, Gluck was a popular choice. After sex abuse claims shook the Swedish Academy, the secretive group that determines the winners, the award was postponed in 2018.
Because of his strong support for the Serbs throughout the 1990s Balkan wars, the presentation of the 2019 prize to Austrian writer Peter Handke sparked outrage.
Gurnah was a little-known figure, according to Jens Liljestrand, a journalist and literature critic.
“This is the biggest surprise – the most jaw-dropping announcement thus far,” he added, referring to his decades of watching the Nobel Prize and writing about literature.
“No one just shows up on this list; you have to be on it for a time,” he continued.
“So I don’t believe that recent world events, world politics, or the refugee crisis have influenced this choice – but I believe that the need to pay more attention to post-colonial literature, and to watch it more closely, [means] the importance and acuteness of this literature has been emphasised in recent years.”
The Nobel Committee awarded Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian the prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for their research into how the human body detects temperature and touch.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was handed on Tuesday to three scientists whose work helped to explain and anticipate complex natural phenomena, including climate change, by finding order in what appeared to be chaos.
On Wednesday, Benjamin List and David WC MacMillan were awarded Nobel Laureates in Chemistry for discovering an easier and more environmentally friendly technique to manufacture molecules that may be used to make chemicals such as medicines and insecticides.
Prizes for outstanding efforts in the sectors of peace and economics are still to come.