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What Are the Generational Effects of Colonialism and War? Abdulrazak Gurnah

Festival of Ideas
Abdulrazak Gurnah

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Award-winning author Abdulrazak Gurnah discusses Afterlives in our third event with Africa Writes–Exeter Book Club.

Taking up where his 1994 Booker-shortlisted novel Paradise left off, Abdulrazak Gurnah transports his readers back to the First World War in his latest novel Afterlives. This coming-of-age novel follows the unanchored adolescent lives of Ilyas, Hamza and Afiya disrupted by the war in the early twentieth century, and interrogates the personal and political cost of rebellion.

Ilyas is stolen by the askari, a Swahili and Arabic name for the German colonial troops, Schutzruppe. Years later he returns home orphaned and his sister, Afiya, given away. Hamza is not stolen, but was sold and comes of age in the army. Ilyas’ and Hamza’s experience in the askari during the war form the nexus of Afterlives. Meanwhile a quiet and resilient romance buds between Hamza and Afiya.

Abdulrazak Gurnah – praised by Giles Foden as ‘one of Africa’s greatest living writers’ – will be in conversation with writer Novuyo Rosa Tshuma.

You can read an excerpt from the book, courtesy of Bloomsbury.

Abdulrazak Gurnah’s After Lives is published by Bloomsbury. Buy a copy from Waterstones, our bookselling partners.

In association with

Abdulrazak Gurnah

Adbulrazak Gurnah is the author of ten novels: Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award), Admiring Silence, By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize) The Last Gift, Gravel Heart and Afterlives. He was Professor of English at the University of Kent, and was a Man Booker Prize judge in 2016. He lives in Canterbury..


Image credit: Mark Pringle

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is a 2020 Lannan Fiction Fellow and the author of the novel House of Stone, winner of a 2019 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award and the 2019 Bulawayo Arts Award for Outstanding Fiction, and listed for the 2019 Orwell Prize, the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize, the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize, and the 2020 Balcones Fiction Prize. She has been invited to give public lectures about House of Stone at the University of Oxford, the Nordic Africa Institute, and Vassar College. She has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is Assistant Professor of Fiction at Emerson College.

Booking Information

This online event is being run by Africa Writes-Exeter. Registration is via Eventbrite. You are invited to make a donation between £2 – £10 (plus fee). You can also attend for free. Upon registration, you will be sent a password which will allow you access to the Crowdcast page.

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