Gurna’s Nobel win shines bright light on Tanzania’s neglected writing in English

Afterlives

Copies of "Afterlives" by Tanzanian-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah are displayed at Waterstones bookshop in central London on October 7, 2021. - Tanzanian-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose work focuses on colonialism and the trauma of the refugee experience, won the Nobel Literature Prize. 

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • Perhaps more deserving of our readership as we savour the light of Gurnah’s Nobel achievement, is Tanzania’s works in English.
  • Traditionally, Tanzania is the cradle of Kiswahili and literature in the same language has been its chief cultural export.

A day after UK-based Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah was declared this year’s winner of the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature, I strolled into a few bookshops in down town Nairobi hoping to get a glimpse, if not a hold, of at least one of titles that have brought him instant fame. My inquiries, however, drew blank stares from the staff who had apparently not heard of such a writer, let alone the titles he has written.

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