Synopses & Reviews
From the Nobel Prize winner, a coming-of-age story that blends myth and history to illuminate the harshness and beauty of an Africa on the brink of colonization
"Gurnah has crafted a wonderful story out of the real stuff of precolonial Africa — mud and dust and spices and ivory and gun powder — in this memorable American debut." — Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award, Paradise is at once the story of an African boy's coming-of-age, a tragic love story, and a tale of the corruption of African tradition by European colonialism. Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah's acclaimed novel is a marvelous blend of myth and historical fiction, with the storytelling that would later win him the world's most prestigious literary honor on full display.
Sold by his father in repayment of a debt, twelve-year-old Yusuf is thrown from his simple rural life into the complexities of precolonial urban East Africa. The ensuing journey leads to encounters with hostile tribes and even more hostile colonizers — ugly creatures with hair growing out of their ears and an unearned sense of authority. Through Yusuf's eyes, Gurnah depicts a culture caught in an uneasy position between tradition and modernity, mysticism and rationality. The result is a page-turning saga that offers a unique perspective on the colonial world and masterfully explicates the themes that animate Gurnah's oeuvre.
"An evocative portrait of Africa on the brink of change... A poignant meditation on the nature of freedom and the loss of innocence, for both a single sensitive boy and an entire continent." New York Times Book Review
"Vibrant... Powerful... Evokes the Edenic natural beauty of a continent on the verge of full-scale imperialist takeover by the European powers... Gurnah conjures a cauldron of animosities among African Muslims, Indian merchants, European farmers, and native tribes." Publishers Weekly
"A fascinating coming-of-age story and an indictment of the European colonization of Africa, with side ventures into African social and religious dynamics... warmly recommended." Library Journal
About the Author
Abdulrazak Gurnah is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is the author of ten novels, including Paradise (The New Press), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award. He lives in Canterbury, England.