“I claim the fact of belonging to different cultures”

how to transcribe the universe of Swahili societies since the 19th century, deeply marked by the arrival of Western settlers as a result of multiculturalism between Arab, Indian, Bantu, Persian and then European cultures? The Zanzibari writer and academic Abdulrazak Gurnah tries it and offers a reading of the colonial situations far from any dogmatic thought, breaking with all Manichaeism.

Born in 1948 in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, he had to flee this island so present in his works after the 1964 revolution that persecuted Arab citizens; he then joined England at the age of 18 and still resides there. Having become a professor of English and post-colonial literature at the University of Kent, he devoted his entire life to the study of the founding texts of a literature that questioned the official narrative of history, as perceived by the dominant, before turning to the game himself. Thus, he confides to us: “ I read a lot. Books have made a difference to me in many ways, both because told me about the experiences, the experiences of others. But also because he triggered something in me: a reflection on the desire to write my own experience, my own experience . »

As such, it is part of a literature that straddles different cultures: ” I don’t see myself as a representative of a particular culture. For all kinds of reasons, Can I claim more than one. “Chase:” What particularly interests me is the how people can get something out of dramatic events, difficulties in their lives. »

His novels then address issues of belonging, colonialism, displacement, memories and migration. Among a dozen works, only three are translated into French, all republished by Denoël and elsewhere: Darling (Paradise) Y Near the sea (By sea) released in December 2021 and very recently Goodbye Zanzibar (Desertion) published in June 2022. Through his works, Abdulrazak Gurnah offers a literature that “ accumulate the understanding of a number of things, [qui accumule] sensitivities that allow us to know ourselves better, also to understand that others are like us. And that, I think, is a way to change the world. »




33 minutes

sound clips:

  • Excerpt from an interview with Jean-Marie-Gustave Le Clézio on the program [La Grande Table](JMG Le Clézio speaks in the post!), France Culture, June 11, 2019
  • Excerpt from an interview with Wole Soyinka on the show BoomerangFrance Inter, March 18, 2022
  • Excerpt from an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro on the show CosmopolitanFrance Inter, May 21, 2006

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