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'Refugees don't come Empty-Handed,' Says Nobel Literature Prize Winner Abdulrazak Gurnah

'Refugees don't come Empty-Handed,' Says Nobel Literature Prize Winner Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, 9 October, 2021 - 05:45
Abdulrazak Gurnah reads for a Canterbury Cathedral project in Canterbury, Britain, on June 2021, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video. | CHAPTER OF CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL / VIA REUTERS

Author Abdulrazak Gurnah, who won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday, urged Europe to see African refugees as assets. Gurnah, who has lived in exile in England after fleeing Tanzania, said: "They (the refugees) don't come empty-handed," according to AFP.

"Many of these people who come, come out of need, and also because quite frankly they have something to give. They don't come empty-handed. A lot of talented, energetic people who have something to give," he told the Nobel Foundation in an interview.

Based in England, Tanzanian-born Gurnah is the first black writer to win the Nobel Literature Prize, the finest literary award, since 1993, reported AFP.

According to the Nobel Prize committee, the author who published around 10 books since 1987 including "Paradise" – one of his best works, has been awarded the prize or his "uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."

Gurnah, who was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in 1948, and fled the oppression against the Muslim minority in 1968, "recoils from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world," noted the Nobel committee. Last year, the award went to US poet Louise Gluck for her "unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."

Many have expected the Swiss Academy to fulfill its promise and expand its geographical boundaries, while its Chairman Anders Olsson insists that "Literary merit. That's the only thing that counts."

Most of the Nobel Literature Prizes have been awarded to western authors so far. Since Chinese Mo Yan won it in 2012, the prize went to authors from Europe and North America.

Of the 117 literature laureates since the first Nobel was awarded in 1901, 95 or more than 80 percent have been Europeans or North Americans. Glaringly, 101 men have won it and only 16 women.

The Academy usually receives 200 or 300 nominations by late January, which are whittled down to five before summer. The members of the Academy's Nobel committee then study the works shortly before the announcement. Their deliberations are kept secret for 50 years. After announcing the winners of the scientific prizes within the first three days of the week, the Nobel season continued Friday in Oslo with the Peace Prize, followed next Monday by the Economics Prize.

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