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Abdulrazak Gurnah Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Memory of Departure (1987)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Pilgrim's Way (1988)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Dottie (1990)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Paradise (1994)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Admiring Silence (1996)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
By the Sea (2001)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Desertion (2005)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Last Gift (2011)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Gravel Heart (2017)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Afterlives (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Anthologies

Road Stories(2012)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

About Abdulrazak Gurnah

A Tanzanian author, Abdulrazak Gurnah is well known for his creative and intelligent fiction that he’s been writing for many years now. Both an academic and an author, his style of literature is in-depth with many layers of profundities featured throughout for the reader. Reaching an audience worldwide, his work has been translated globally, with it reaching countless readers far and wide. Becoming a household name for many, he’s become hugely influential in his own right, really speaking to readers in a direct and straightforward style.

Taking powerful themes and ideas, Gurnah really does manage to cast a light on difficult subject matter and history. Looking back to the past with unsentimental eyes, he takes a bold look at different topics such as post-colonialism in Africa. Not holding back, he has a strong voice that really resonates with readers from around the world, regardless of their background. Communicating in a clear and articulate manner, he’s hugely engaging, providing insight for the audience, whilst also keeping them turning the page.

Bringing the past to life, he has an in-depth understanding of it, having studied postcolonial literature for quite some time. This extensive research resonates throughout his work, along with his own unique experiences, giving him a powerful level of insight. Knowing his subject matter well, he also crafts finely tuned characters who really feel alive upon the page, relating to the audience throughout. With so much more to come still, he’s a writer that continues to inspire, with new readers and authors discovering his work every day.

Early and Personal Life

Born in Zanzibar, which at the time was the Sutanate of Zanzibar, Abdulrazak Gurnah was born on the 20th of December in 1948. Leaving the island when he was just eighteen, he would go on to live in England in 1968, this following the Zanzibar Revolution of the time. Attending Christ Church College in Canterbury, he would receive degrees from the University of London, before moving on to the University of Kent where he would gain his PhD.

Lecturing at the Bayero University Kano based in Nigeria, he was positioned there from 1980 to 1983, working and writing. Later he would become a professor of postcolonial literature and English at the University of Kent, where he remained until he retired in 2017. Currently living in Canterbury in the UK, he holds British citizenship whilst holding close ties with Tanzania, as he continues to write to this day.

Writing Career

The first novel that Abdulrazak Gurnah would bring out was back in 1987, as it would establish him as an author for the first time. A stand-alone historical title, it would cast a light on the history of the African continent, as seen through the eyes of its central protagonist Hassan Omar. Gurnah would go on to write numerous other stand-alone novels, many of which were in a similar vein, and would also be well received.

Known for his short-stories too, he would also write several essays, many of which took a non-fiction academic look at postcolonial history and literature. Winning countless awards and honors as well, he’d notably go on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2021 for his contributions to the understanding of refugees, as well as postcolonialism and its effects on the modern world. All of this would go on to help cement his reputation as one of the greatest writers on the subject of Africa and its history.

Admiring Silence

Originally published through the ‘New Press’ publishing imprint, this would first come out in 1996 on the 17th of October. A stand-alone historical novel, it takes a period in time, using many of the authors own experiences to help inspire it. The story is self-contained and can be easily picked up, with it being an engaging account, along with some deeper ideas and insights.

Escaping to England from Zanzibar, a man finds a new home for himself, as he now has hope for the future there. Building a life for himself, he marries becoming a teacher, whilst his wife writes thesis on narrative theory, all the while telling her and her parents romanticized stories of postcolonial Zanzibar. After twenty years the barriers to his homeland come down, and he’s able to return and see his family, discovering how much different it’s become in its now ramshackle state. Witnessing the transformations in his home country and within himself, he begins to come to terms with what lies in store for him.

Looking at the nature of exile and what it really means for someone to be cast out from their country, this book really does have a lot to say. Dealing with themes of racism, it seeks to understand the nostalgia surrounding colonialism, and what its legacy really means. There’s so much to unpack here, and it’s definitely a powerful novel for those hoping to learn more on the subject matter.

Afterlives

Initially released in 2020 on the 17th of September, this first came out through the Bloomsbury publishing house. Not a part of any series, it does lightly follow on from Gurnah’s earlier novel ‘Paradise,’ but more in terms of themes and historical events. It’s a powerful novel of a turbulent time, and one that would go on to be nominated for the Orwell Prize, along with the Walter Scott Prize to name just a few.

Taken by German colonial troops from his home when he was just a young boy, a soldier is then made to fight against his own people. Returning home to his village after everything, he finds that his parents are gone and his sister, Afiya, has been given away, Then another man returns, Hamza, but he was instead sold into the war, as he would grow-up as right-hand to an officer, being protected for life. Now hoping to gain the love of Afiya, they all come together in the hope of rebuilding something new, all the while another war looming upon the continent.

Concerning itself with multiple stories and perspectives, this historical novel essentially charts a period of time. Set on what was the Swahili Coast and is now Tanzania, it expertly weaves the different characters narratives into the story of the country as a whole. Taking up where the end of his 1994 novel ‘Paradise’ ended, this continues the epic story of the era, although it can be read on its own.

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