The Tanzanian novelist, Nobel Prize 2021, signs with “Adieu Zanzibar” an epic, dazzling book on betrayed love and uprooting. Essestial.
Albdulrazak Gurnah is a great storyteller: Farewell Zanzibar (Denoël) can be read on several levels and with relish. The original title, Desertion (2005)is perhaps more relevant. Farewell Zanzibar is a sum of farewells that don’t sound like goodbyes, more like more definitive partings. With the guilt that accompanies the one who leaves. Uprooting, voluntary or suffered, is a heartbreak of rare violence. The 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature recounts, with real happiness, the stutters of History through small individual stories.
Love in the time of colonialism
“There was the story of his first appearance”, thus begins the story. It all started in 1899, in a small coastal town in East Africa, when a human wreck, almost a ghost, uncircumcised, a Mzungu (European, White, in Swahili) was picked up early in the morning by the muezzin Hassanali. For about thirty pages, this meeting and the reactions it arouses are described with a pen full of empathy. We quickly understand that the appearance of the stranger, Marin Pearce, will upset the lives of those who welcomed and cared for him. Starting with Rehana, the muezzin’s sister, who lives a great love story with the English adventurer. Rehana, almost doomed to relive the cowardice of men. Because they all end up leaving and leaving her alone. Her first husband, then Marin Pearce who returns to his country by abandoning her pregnant. From this love will be born a daughter and then a granddaughter, who will grow up in a world in need of otherness.
Immigration is the other subject dear to the author of Heaven and of Near the sea (Denoel), in addition to colonialism. Abdulrazak Gurnah takes us, through the generations, from the 1900s in Africa to London in the 60s. The British Empire is crumbling, Africa is witness to it and actor. The old order is wavering, the new is slow to emerge. Loves are born, question and disappear, betrayed again and again, like fatalities, condemned to repeat themselves mercilessly. Farewell Zanzibar, an essential book.
(Farewell Zanzibar, Albdulrazak Gurnak, Denoel, 22 euros)
Excerpts: “Fate is everywhere, as it was in that first encounter, but fate is not chance, and the most unexpected events follow a plan. that Hassanali was the one who discovered the man…. In the light now brighter, he understood that it was neither a ghost nor a shadow nor a ghoul but a man of earthy complexion, eyes wide with exhaustion…. Rehana learned to think of Azad as a mistake she had made, and against which she was powerless. ..) London did not have this power of identification for me, and I did not have the vision of bare feet plowing the cobblestones towards a subtle life”.