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Yvonne Owuor on Abdulrazak Gurnah and Swahili Literature
Episode 412th December 2021 • BookRising • Radical Books Collective
00:00:00 00:23:02

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Meg Arenberg is joined by Kenyan novelist Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor to celebrate the momentous occasion of Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel Prize, in her words, "a family win." Owuor talks about Gurnah the man and the mentor, the textures of his writing and how it has influenced her own, and reflects on the cartographic imagination that nourishes both poetry and prose born from the Swahili seas.

The conversation between Owuor and Arenberg is followed by a short reading from By the Sea (2001), one of Gurnah's most poignant depictions of the migrant experience and the rippling effects of colonial violence in the lives of ordinary people. In a few deft strokes, the passage orients us to the layered histories of Zanzibar's encounters with the world in both their raucous beauty and their brutality.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor was born in Nairobi, Kenya. She studied English and History at the Kenyatta University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Reading, UK, and an MPhil (Creative Writing) from the University of Queensland, Brisbane. From 2003 to 2005, she was the executive director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival under the remit of which a literary forum was established. Her short story, The Weight of Whispers, earned her the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003. She is the author of two novels, Dust (2014) and The Dragonfly Sea (2019).

Meg Arenberg is a writer, translator and scholar. She is a postdoctoral fellow in AMESALL at Rutgers University and Managing Director of the Radical Books Collective.