Shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize and published by Bloomsbury for the first time By the author of By The SeaAn Open University set text, and a core text for universities nationwide
Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar and teaches at the University of Kent. He is the author of the novels Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise, Admiring Silence and By the Sea. His fourth novel, Paradise (1994) was shortlisted for both the Booker and the Whitbread Prizes.
Gurnah's powerful, ironically titled story evokes the Edenic natural beauty of a continent on the verge of full-scale imperialist takeover by the European powers. Set in Colonial East Africa as English invaders drive natives off the land and Germans plan a railway across the continent, the novel focuses on Yusuf, a teenager sold by his father into indentured servitude at age 12 to pay off a debt. Working in the shop of his exploitive Uncle Aziz, then trekking with a trade caravan, callow Yusuf learns the ways of the world as he encounters an Africa rife with tribal warfare, superstition, disease and child slavery. He also falls hopelessly in love with Amina, the adoptive sister of a fellow indentured worker; she was married off, against her will, to the much older Aziz, who, we learn, may not be Yusuf's real uncle. Born in Zanzibar and currently a professor of literature in England, Gurnah ( Memory of Departure ) conjures a cauldron of animosities among African Muslims, Indian merchants, European farmers and native tribes in a vibrant coming-of-age story. (Apr.)
'Many layered, violent, beautiful and strange ... a poetic and vividly conjured book about Africa and the brooding power of the unknown' Independent on Sunday 'An aural archive of a lost Africa ... Tangling travel adventures, social documentary, political indictment and a doomed love story ... Paradise is alive with the unexpected. In it, an obliterated world is enthrallingly retrieved' Sunday Times 'Gurnah evokes his world in poetic prose which is pure and lucid - a small paradise in itself ... The pleasures, sadnesses and losses in all the shining facets of this book are lingering and exquisite' Guardian 'Paradise is that rare thing, a novel that is totally convincing in the vivid physical world it presents, yet transcending that world and reaching into the universal. Folk tale, travel story, drama of love and loss, by turns touching and horrifying, it is a novel to be grateful for' Barry Unsworth
Gurnah's second novel and first American release melds a fascinating coming-of-age story and an indictment of the European colonization of Africa, with side ventures into African social and religious dynamics and natural and human brutalities. Sent to live with his ``uncle,'' merchant Aziz, young protagonist Yusuf has no idea that he has been sold into slavery. Yusuf's growing awareness of his situation causes him little alarm, for his honesty and beauty make him a favorite of Aziz, the local townspeople, and fellow rehani (indentured slave) Khalil. However, his uncertain relationship with Aziz's enigmatic wife and her servant Amina teach Yusuf of honor, shame, love, and true slavery, leading him to a decision that gives the book its stunning denouement. Warmly recommended for substantial fiction collections.-- Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio