Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2002, By the Sea is Gurnah's masterpiece.For fans of Kazuo Ishiguro, J.M. Coetzee, David Malouf and Michael Ondaatje
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, shortlisted for the Booker and Whitbread Prizes, and Admiring Silence.
Dense, accomplished and sharply conceived, this novel by Anglo-African writer Gurnah (Paradise; Admiring Silence) tells the story of 65-year-old Saleh Omar, a merchant refugee from Zanzibar who applies for asylum in England. A present-day Sinbad, Omar is fleeing a land where the evil jinn are the larcenous rulers equipped with all the accoutrements of contemporary authoritarianism concentration camps, rifles, kangaroo courts, etc. Upon arrival at Gatwick Airport, Omar presents an invalid visa, made out to his distant cousin and most hated enemy, Rajab Shaaban Mahmud. Advised not to demonstrate that he knows English, he puts on a charade of incomprehension for his caseworker, Rachel Howard, until uncomfortable circumstances force him to speak. In the meantime, Rachel contacts the English expert on Kiswahili, Latif Mahmud, who just happens to be the real Rajab Shaaban's son. Inevitably, the two men get together in a little seaside English town. Latif long ago cut off all relations with his Zanzibar family, having taken refuge in England in the '60s and gone on to become an English professor and poet, and a rather lonely single man. Saleh, he learns, has been pursued vindictively by Rajab and his wife, Asha, the mistress of a powerful minister. Due to recriminations over an inherited property, Saleh was eventually dispossessed of his house, arrested and imprisoned in various camps. Getting out, he starts over, only to be threatened by Latif's brother, Hassan. Gurnah's novel is a painful, unapologetically literate probe into the tragedy of the postcolonial world, where refugees are always emerging, "stunned, into the light of yet another gathering shambles." (June) Forecast: Paradise was short-listed for the Booker Prize, which should draw some critical attention to Gurnah's latest, though sales will likely be strongest at university bookstores. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
'Rarely in a lifetime can you open a book and find that reading it encapsulates the enchanting qualities of a love affair ... one scarcely dares breathe while reading it for fear of breaking the enchantment' The Times
Zanzibar author Gurnah, whose novel Paradise was a finalist for the Booker Prize, here illustrates the destructiveness of pride and the divergence of memory and truth. When Saleh Omar arrives in England from Zanzibar as a refugee, he hopes that he can leave behind his old life, marred by prison, death, and ruin. Instead, he encounters Latif, whose family's feud with Saleh destroyed nearly everyone involved. The two men's stories unwind slowly and gracefully, bringing the reader into a darkened room with the two old foes as they call forth ghosts, only to discover that the truth is often harder to believe than lies. Gurnah treats his characters like old friends, accepting their faults to see the dignity beneath. His portrayal of everyday immigrant life and quiet Muslim piety makes this a gentle, enjoyable read. Recommended for public libraries. Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.