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Friday, March 24, 2023

After Lives: AbdulRazak Gurnah’s tribute to humanism

Abdulrazak Gurnah FRSL (born 20 December 1948) is a Tanzanian-born novelist and academic who lives in the United Kingdom. He was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s as a refugee during the Zanzibar Revolution. Gurnah was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021.

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When an author focuses on human life without applying any ideology or bias it is humanism. In other words, it is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion.’ Abdulrazak Gurnah FRSL (born 20 December 1948) is a Tanzanian-born novelist and academic who lives in the United Kingdom. In the kind of violence as in India, Africa, Canada, or elsewhere, there is increasing motivation of religious hatred for the other who is killed or maimed in the name of religion. The Afghan girl Malala Yousafzai whom the Taliban’s shot and maimed in her eyes prompted such quick human compassion that she was shifted to England and operated and eyes were saved ultimately and now is accepted to be a part of humanity. She herself is devoting life to the depressed, deprived and dejected-part of people of the world. This is humanism.

After Lives is the story of one Khalifa (26) who is in the service of Amur Biashara, a Gujarati who lives in Zanzibar. It was a tradition that Indian men would play with African women until they send Indian women for marriage. Khalifa’s father was Qassim who lived in a village in Gujarat. He sent his son to a tutor of keeping accounts. The British had made the place their colony. The Germans came late to the continent and were brutal, they had schutztzrtruppe or protection troops. That was the year of the Bushiri uprising. Amur Bishara was known as cutthroat in commercial dealings for he would not spare anyone for money. He would pay bribes for his devious transactions. His mind was always calculating.

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Amur had a son Nassor and a sister who had a daughter Asha Fuadi

Amur cleverly made Khalifa marry Asha (1907). Afterward, Khalifa found out that the bride did not bring any alimony for being of a poor family. Asha’s father and mother both died within four days leaving her nothing. The malaria epidemic claimed their lives. Ilyas came to the colony just before the death of Amur Biashara. He came to the colony with a letter to the sisal estate chief, a German. Ilyas also spoke German. He lodged with Omar Hamdani for a brief time. Ilyas’ mother lived in a distant part. He didn’t know the way so he was guided by the local people and others who were ferrying him.

It was a long time that Ilyas had left. Since then, his mother had died in misery and poverty. The place was a struggle of thatch houses. His father had given his daughter to a woman. The time was ravaged by the epidemic. Ilyas asked about the woman who had looked after his sister Afia. Ilyas was overwhelmed that he has come to the place where his sister Afia was living with a woman. His joy was short-lived. He realized, how much the family had suffered. Now only his sister was left alone in the world.

The woman who had looked after the sister asked Ilyas. “Afiya that was her name. Afiya.” The woman continued. “Where have you come from? Your mother is dead. Your father is dead. Your sister is given away. Where have you been?” Ilyas remembered his “father was a victim of diabetes and his mother had suffered by unnamable ailments that affected women. Her back hurt, breathing was a struggle, her chest was thick with water and she was often retching from endless pregnancies.” He was shocked by their deaths announced so abruptly. “Is my sister here in the village.” The man pointed out the place the sister lived with the family which adopted her.

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So, he resumed the search and reached the hut

“Marhaba,” he said smiling. Then after a moment, he said “Can I ask your name”?

“Afia.” He smiled more widely and sighed at the same time. Then he went down on his haunches so their faces were level. “I am your brother.” “I have been looking for you so long. I did not know if you lived, or if Ma and Ba lived.” “Now I have found you. Thank God. Are the people of the house inside?”

They welcomed him. “You are welcome, our brother. We thank God for keeping you safe and for leading you to our house so you can meet your sister.”


Mustafa Khan holds a Ph.D. on Mark Twain. He lives in Malegaon Maharashtra, India. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.