“Superb. . . . A celebration of a place and time when people held onto their own ways, and basked in ordinary joys even as outside forces conspired to take them away.” —New York Times
From the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, a sweeping, multi-generational saga of displacement, loss, and love, set against the brutal colonization of east Africa.
When he was just a boy, Ilyas was stolen from his parents on the coast of east Africa by German colonial troops. After years away, fighting against his own people, he returns home to find his parents gone and his sister, Afiya, abandoned into de facto slavery. Hamza, too, returns home from the war, scarred in body and soul and with nothing but the clothes on his back–until he meets the beautiful, undaunted Afiya. As these young people live and work and fall in love, their fates knotted ever more tightly together, the shadow of a new war on another continent falls over them, threatening once again to carry them away.
About the Author
Abdulrazak Gurnah is the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the author of nine previous novels, including Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), and Desertion. Born and raised in Zanzibar, he is Professor Emeritus of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent; he lives in Canterbury, England.
Praise for Afterlives: “Superb. . . . Afterlives is a celebration of a place and time when people held onto their own ways, and basked in ordinary joys even as outside forces conspired to take them away. . . . [Gurnah] is a novelist nonpareil, a master of the art form who understands human failings in conflicts both political and intimate — and how these shortcomings create afflictions from which nations and individuals continue to suffer, needlessly, generation after generation.” —New York Times Book Review
“At once a globe-spanning epic of European colonialism and an intimate look at village life in one of the many overlooked corners of the Earth. Both parts — reclamations of history and heart — are equally revelatory. . . . Gurnah’s greatest act of love and artistry [is] his ability to gather the fragments of broken lives and create a breathtaking mosaic in print.”—The Washington Post
“An appreciation for quiet, ordinary forms of heroism runs throughout. . . . One can take away lessons and meanings from this novel, yet such things are perhaps less significant than the sheer seeming realness of the characters, whose presences Mr. Gurnah has faithfully crafted into existence, with all of their dreaming, their sorrow and their resilience.”—Wall Street Journal
“A rich, detailed tapestry. . . . three separate storylines tangle together to probe the violence of European colonialism.” —TIME
“Afterlives follows its long arc to a point where reclamation is possible, where recognition of full personhood can once again be restored. . . . [Gurnah] constructs his latest magnificent novel so clearly and carefully that when his very last lines bring us back to love and kindness, we’re ready to pay attention.”—Los Angeles Times
“Epic and poignantly personal.”—Vanity Fair
“This lyrical novel delves into the scars left by war, not just on the body and mind, but family and society too. We come to know and love Ilya and his sister Afiya, her lover Hamza, and the lives they're desperately trying to create even as cascading conflicts threaten to tear them apart.”—Good Housekeeping
“Nobel laureate Gurnah’s latest is a multi-generational exploration of colonial violence and displacement in east Africa through the lives of three young people.”—The Millions
“A fascinating, necessary novel.” —Lit Hub
“Filled with human compassion and historical insight. . . . .A captivating, engrossing and edifying work of fiction.” —BookPage
“Riveting. . . . Gurnah’s spare, unvarnished prose shines a harsh but honest light on the brutality of Africa’s colonial past. . . and through his rich main characters, the impact of colonialism and other key global events truly hits home. This profound account of empire and the everyman is not to be missed.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Breathtaking. . . . Gurnah constructs a remarkable portrait of tenderness, deep affection, and longing that stretches over time and across continents. . . . Absorbing, powerful, and enduring, Afterlives is an extraordinary reading experience by one of the great writers of our time.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Impeccably written. . . . building a complex, character-based story that stretches over generations.”—Kirkus(starred review)
“Riveting and heartbreaking. . . A compelling novel, one that gathers close all those who were meant to be forgotten, and refuses their erasure.” —Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, inThe Guardian
“A work of extraordinary power, giving us a colonial world with utmost intimacy, capturing its cruelties and complexities, immersing us in vividly evoked characters, showing us moments of incredible tenderness and beauty, and quietly reordering our sense of history.” —Phil Klay, author of Redeployment and Missionaries
“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 (London)
“To read Afterlives is to be returned to the joy of storytelling as Gurnah takes us to the place where imagined lives collide with history.” —Aminatta Forna, author of Happiness