Bertelsmann Welcomes Abdulrazak Gurnah

Bertelsmann Unter den Linden in Berlin hosted a press event with the 2021 Nobel Laureate in Literature

The press meet-and-greet in mid-March kicked off a week-long reading tour for the writer from Tanzania (formerly Zanzibar). Gurnah’s works are published in Germany by Penguin, an imprint of Bertelsmann's publisher Penguin Random House.

Abdulrazak Gurnah with Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe
Penguin publisher Britta Egetemeier welcomes the press
German news anchor Jana Pareigis with Abdulrazak Gurnah
Numerous journalist came to see the Nobel winner
TV interview on the sunny roof

Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, was a guest on March 14 at Bertelsmann Unter den Linden in Berlin 1. The author from the UK, who originally hails from Zanzibar (today: Tanzania), and who is best known for his literary examination of East Africa’s colonial history, discussed his work with ZDF presenter Jana Pareigis and answered questions from the numerous journalists who had come to attend a press event organized by his German publisher, Penguin. The conversation was accompanied by a reading by the well-known audiobook narrator Frank Arnold. He read from Gurnah’s 2001 novel “By The Sea” which Penguin re-released on that day in German.

“Page after page, Gurnah’s books reveal a profound knowledge of human nature, of its perennially tangled and often absurd patterns of behavior in suffering and happiness, in oppression and freedom, in darkness and in beauty,” Penguin publisher Britta Egetemeier said in her welcoming remarks. “Ultimately, the important thing is not where a person comes from or what their story is, but what connects and can connect us.” The event kicked off a reading tour that takes the author to Munich, Cologne, Berlin, and Leipzig this week. In Leipzig, Gurnah will be a guest on the Blue Sofa, the joint authors’ forum of Bertelsmann, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and 3sat.

The press event was followed by individual interviews on the sunny roof of Bertelsmann Unter den Linden, with well-known literary critic Denis Scheck among others. He also met Bertelsmann Chairman & CEO Thomas Rabe.

When the Swedish Academy in Stockholm awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature to the writer last October, it came as a big surprise to the book world. Abdulrazak Gurnah’s works had long been out of print in most languages, if they had ever been translated at all. Penguin Verlag took advantage of this circumstance and quickly secured the rights for the German-language editions of the best-known works by the author, whom the Nobel Prize jury had honored “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fates of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” At the beginning of December 2021, Penguin then published the novel “Das verlorene Paradies” (Paradise), which gave Abdulrazak Gurnah his international breakthrough in 1994. The book has been on the “Spiegel” bestseller list since its publication and has sold nearly 80,000 copies to date. March 14, it was followed by the release of “Ferne Gestade” (By The Sea), another important work by the author that tells the intertwined life and escape story of two people from Zanzibar. The novel was originally published in 2001 and was at the time nominated for the Booker Prize, the most important book prize in the Anglo-Saxon world. For this fall, Penguin has announced the release the first-ever German edition of Gurnah’s latest novel, 2020’s “After Lives."