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 traditional African patterns by European colonialism. It presents a major African voice to American readers - a voice that prompted Peter Tinniswood to write in the London Times, reviewing Gurnah's previous novel, "Mr. Gurnah is a ...
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 traditional African patterns by European colonialism. It presents a major African voice to American readers - a voice that prompted Peter Tinniswood to write in the London Times, reviewing Gurnah's previous novel, "Mr. Gurnah is a very fine writer. I am certain he will become a great one." Paradise is Abdulrazak Gurnah's great novel. At twelve, Yusuf, the protagonist of this twentieth-century odyssey, is sold by his father in repayment of a debt. From the simple life of rural Africa, Yusuf is thrown into the complexities of precolonial urban East Africa - a fascinating world in which Muslim black Africans, Christian missionaries, and Indians from the subcontinent coexist in a fragile, subtle social hierarchy. Through the eyes of Yusuf, Gurnah depicts communities at war, trading safaris gone awry, and the universal trials of adolescence. Then, just as Yusuf begins to comprehend the choices required of him, he and everyone around him must adjust to the new reality of European colonialism. The result is a page-turning saga that covers the same territory as the novels of Isak Dinesen and William Boyd, but does so from a perspective never before available on that seldom-chronicled part of the world.
Publishers Weekly, 1994-02-28 Gurnah's powerful, ironically titled story evokes the Edenic natural beauty of a continent on the verge of full-scale imperialist takeover by the European powers. Set in Colonial East Africa as English invaders drive natives off the land and Germans plan a railway across the continent, the novel focuses on Yusuf, a teenager sold by his father into indentured servitude at age 12 to pay off a debt. Working in the shop of his exploitive Uncle Aziz, then trekking with a trade caravan, callow Yusuf learns the ways of the world as he encounters an Africa rife with tribal warfare, superstition, disease and child slavery. He also falls hopelessly in love with Amina, the adoptive sister of a fellow indentured worker; she was married off, against her will, to the much older Aziz, who, we learn, may not be Yusuf's real uncle. Born in Zanzibar and currently a professor of literature in England, Gurnah ( Memory of Departure ) conjures a cauldron of animosities among African Muslims, Indian merchants, European farmers and native tribes in a vibrant coming-of-age story. (Apr.)
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