Literature laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah says tribulations faced by migrants hadn't lessened since he moved to the UK in 1960s.
Nobel literature laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah criticised the “lack of compassion” of governments, including Britain’s, that treat migrants as a problem or a threat.
Gurnah grew up on the island of Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, and arrived in England as an 18-year-old refugee in the 1960s.
He has drawn on his experiences for 10 novels, including “Memory of Departure,” “Pilgrims Way,” “Afterlives” and the Booker Prize finalist “Paradise.”
Congratulations to Abdulrazak Gurnah on winning the #NobelPrize in Literature!— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) October 7, 2021
The award is already sparking conversations and will shine a light on refugee issues global, and especially in Africa. https://t.co/DVeVOfqcrU
'Same old ugliness'
Gurnah said migration is “not just my story … It’s a phenomenon of our times.”
The 72-year-old novelist said the tribulations faced by migrants hadn't lessened in the decades since he left his homeland.
“It might seem as if things have moved on, but once again you get new arrivals, same old medicine,” Gurnah told reporters a day after winning the prize.
“Same old ugliness in the newspapers, the mistreatment, the lack of compassion from the government.”
Gurnah said Britain has become more aware of racism over the decades and had “accelerated” discussion of its imperial past.
But “institutions, it seems to me, are just as mean, just as authoritarian as they were.”
Gurnah said Britain’s detention of asylum-seekers and the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of long-term residents of the UK from the Caribbean were caught up in crackdown on illegal immigration, “seem to me to be just continuations of the same ugliness.”
Gurnah, who holds British citizenship and recently retired as a professor of literature at the University of Kent, urged governments to stop seeing migrants as a problem to be solved.
“These people are not coming with nothing,” he said. “They are coming with youth, with energy, with potential.”
We are so delighted by the news that our Patron Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the #NobelPrize in Literature. Truly wonderful recognition and we send our heartfelt congratulations. https://t.co/INa39gX2sT— The Refugee Tales (@RefugeeTales) October 7, 2021