Micro review: ‘Afterlives’ by Abdulrazak Gurnah


After having written nine awe-inspiring books, Nobel Literature laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah’s latest novel ‘Afterlives’ was published in October 2020. And exactly a year later, he has won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. ‘Afterlives’ is an addition to the glorious archive of African Literature that was created by Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie and other noteable authors. Post-colonialism, immigration, refugees and racism continue to be the dominant themes in Gurnah’s books and ‘After Lives’ takes after its precedents in every way.

Set amidst the colonial conflict of Africa, where Germans, British, Belgians and the French are struggling for control, ‘Afterlives’ is the story of Ilyas and Hamza. Ilyas is a young man who was stolen from his parents by German troops. Hamza, on the other hand, was sold and has been brought up under the protection of an officer who now lays full claim over him. After getting done with the war, Hamza returns home to the same place where Ilyas lived and is now in search of a job, security and love- in Ilyas’ sister Afiya, who was given away by their parents. The book captures one of the most prominent consequences of the imminent First World War and colonization -the life and struggles of African citizens who were stolen or bought to fight for Europe.

The book has been widely acclaimed for its depiction of a prominent but rarely explored theme of the lives of soldiers who fight for the colonizer. Do add this book to your reading list if you wish to pick a novel written by this year’s winner of the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature.

How critics view the book:

Maaza Mengiste writes in
The Guardian, “Gurnah does not shy away from the psychologically complicated encounters. He exhibits the same patience and care that he shows to all his characters as he follows Hamza through the war, guiding us expertly into deeper contemplations of Christianity’s role in the drive to build and maintain a colonial empire. And through Hamza and Afiya, he provides a window on the restorative potential of trust and love.”

Jane Shilling writes for
Standard.co.uk ,”Abdulrazak Gurnah’s new novel is a tender account of the extraordinariness of ordinary lives.”

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