African arts, culture + politics

Voices in exile


(ARISE magazine, issue 12) The concept of ‘home’ can provoke feelings of displacement and guilt in many migrants. The Last Gift, a new book by Zanzibar-born author Abdulrazak Gurnah, explores this issue through the tale of Abbas, a migrant father struggling to hide his past from his English-born children.

Migration, post-colonialism and identity are recurring themes in Gurnah’s books. They’re also matters of personal interest; Gurnah was forced to flee Zanzibar, aged 18, after a bloody revolution in 1964. It was 17 years before Gurnah was able to return, following an amnesty. “Being away has a guilt to it: you’re out of touch, you can’t help people. Going back was terrific because you are able to renew things.”

Gurnah, professor of English at the University of Kent, now visits Zanzibar regularly. But his past is never far from his mind – or books. “I often have characters thinking back to other times. Many people who live this migrant life live both in reality and in their imagination.”

The Last Gift [Bloomsbury], out May


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