When Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year I set out to learn more about him. He is Tanzanian from Zanzibar. He came to England as a refugee in the 1960’s. He lives in Canterbury and is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Kent.
He writes in English and is very prolific, with wonderful and important stories about the experience of refugees. I picked Pilgrims Way as an entry point for his novels. It’s the best book I read all year. I don’t know that I have encountered another book that so plainly and powerfully articulates the strength of racial division and the impact of daily attacks both verbal and physical.
Although not named, the setting is probably Canterbury where Gurnah lives. The title references an ancient pilgrim path from Tunbridge Wells to Canterbury. It is an ironic parallel to the lives of refugees finding their way in a complicated, closed, and different society.