Abdulrazak Gurnah’s 10 Novels Acquired by Chinese Publisher

Shanghai Translation Publishing House secured the Chinese rights to the Nobel laureate’s fiction oeuvre. Five novels will be released in 2022.
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Abdulrazak Gurnah's books. Credit: LA Times.

Abdulrazak Gurnah's books. Credit: LA Times.

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.”

Abdulrazak Gurnah by Frank Augstein/AP.
Abdulrazak Gurnah by Frank Augstein/AP.

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.

Emmanuel Esomnofu
Emmanuel Esomnofu is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist and has written extensively on Nigerian music and on several moving parts of popular culture. His writing appears online in Native Mag, Okay Africa, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He was published in print in The Muse, the oldest student journal in West Africa. In December 2020, he worked on "Fuji: A Opera" as a copywriter, creating informative and exciting stories from Fuji's rich history.

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