Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of East Africa. He came to Britain as a student in 1968. He is on the advisory board of the journal Wasafiri and lives in Canterbury, after retiring as a professor of English at the University of Kent.
His first three novels, Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrims Way (1988) and Dottie (1990), document the immigrant experience in contemporary Britain from different perspectives. His fourth novel, Paradise (1994), is set in colonial East Africa during the First World War and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Admiring Silence (1996) tells the story of a young man who leaves Zanzibar and emigrates to England where he marries and becomes a teacher. A return visit to his native country 20 years later profoundly affects his attitude towards both himself and his marriage. By the Sea (2001) is narrated by Saleh Omar, an elderly asylum-seeker living in an English seaside town.
His latest novels are Desertion (2005), shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize, The Last Gift (2011), Gravel Heart (2017), and Afterlives (2020). In 2007 he edited The Cambridge Companion to Salman Rushdie.
He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2006, and in 2021 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.