The 2021 Nobel laureate in literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah, will have his novels translated into Chinese for the first time. After the Swedish Academy’s unforeseen choice of the Zanzibar-born Tanzanian novelist, a huge amount of people picked interest in his fiction, praised for its “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
The Chinese rights to Gurnah’s ten novels were acquired by Shanghai Translation Publishing House, translator Bruce Humes first informed Open Country Mag.
“We aim to publish five of Gurnah’s full-length novels within the second half of 2022,” said Feng Tao, the head editor at the publishing house.
“Especially in the last decade, we have gradually evolved from publishing one or two masterpieces of important writers to marketing their writing as a whole,” Feng added. “Classic and important authors are presented in the form of anthologies or series of works.”
Chinese readers were also introduced to the Nobel-winning Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz by Shanghai Translation Publishing House. Feng believes Gurnah’s work will resonate. “Colonialism, post-colonialism, and the conflict and intergration of different races and cultures are among the most internationally relevant themes of our time,” he said.
Gurnah’s Nobel Prize win was trailed by discussions that he isn’t widely known in the Anglophone world. Consequently, publishing houses moved to acquire rights to his novels, both for translation and republication.
Days after the announcement, a New York Times feature reported the rarity of finding Gurnah’s novels, revealing that Gurnah’s management had begun receiving offers from American publishers. Afterlives, which received bids from six publishers, was sold to Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin Random House, which plans to release it in August 2022. The deal also included two other novels, By the Sea and Desertion.