Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy and is worth $1.14 million dollars.

He is the first African to win the award which is considered the most prestigious in world literature in almost two decades.

The Academy praised Gurnah for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”


Abdulrazak Gurnah, born on 20 December 1948, is a Zanzibar-born Tanzanian novelist who is based in the United Kingdom.

He was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and came to the UK as a refugee in the 1960s during the Zanzibar Revolution.

His novels include Paradise , which was shortlisted for both the Booker and the Whitbread Prize; Desertion; and By the Sea, which was longlisted for the Booker and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

He initially studied at Christ Church College, Canterbury, whose degrees were at the time awarded by the University of London. He then moved to the University of Kent, where he earned his PhD, with a thesis titled Criteria in the Criticism of West African Fiction, in 1982.

From 1980 to 1983, Gurnah lectured at Bayero University Kano in Nigeria. He was a professor at the University of Kent’s department of English until his retirement.

SABC correspondent Daniel Kijo in Tanzania speaks about Gurnah’s work: