Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.
In a ceremony in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy hailed his "uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."
Born in Zanzibar in 1948, Gurnah was until his recent retirement a professor at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. He arrived in England as a refugee at the end of the 1960s.
His first three books, Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrims Way (1988) and Dottie (1990), explore the immigrant experience in modern-day Britain.
His novel "Paradise'', set in colonial East Africa during the First World War, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994.
Issues of migration, displacement and identity are a central thread in his work.
Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for literature said Gurnah's characters "find themselves in the gulf between cultures ... between the life left behind and the life to come, confronting racism and prejudice, but also compelling themselves to silence the truth or reinventing a biography to avoid conflict with reality."
Gurnah's mother tongue is Swahili but his literary works are written in English.
He is only the sixth Africa-born-author to win a Nobel for literature.
Last year's prize went to American poet Louise Glück for what the judges described as her “unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal".
Glück was a popular choice after several years of controversy. In 2018 the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, the secretive body that chooses the winners. The awarding of the 2019 prize to Austrian writer Peter Handke caused protests because of his strong support for the Serbs during the 1990s Balkan wars.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (€984,000). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize in physiology or medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.
The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three scientists whose work found order in seeming disorder, helping to explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change.
Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan were named as laureates of the Nobel Prize for chemistry Wednesday for finding an easier and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make compounds, including medicines and pesticides.
Prizes will also be awarded for outstanding work in the fields of peace and economics.