From the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, a sweeping, multi-generational saga of displacement, loss, and love, set against the brutal colonization of east Africa.
When he was just a boy, Ilyas was stolen from his parents on the coast of east Africa by German colonial troops. After years away, fighting against his own people, he returns home to find his parents gone and his sister, Afiya, abandoned into de facto slavery. Hamza, too, returns home from the war, scarred in body and soul and with nothing but the clothes on his back--until he meets the beautiful, undaunted Afiya. As these young people live and work and fall in love, their fates knotted ever more tightly together, the shadow of a new war on another continent falls over them, threatening once again to carry them away.
In Nobel laureate Gurnah's riveting latest (after Gravel Heart), the lives of three East Africans play out in an unnamed coastal town during the period of German colonial rule in Africa in the early 20th century. As a child, Ilyas is kidnapped by a soldier from the German colonial army. Years later, he locates and briefly reunites with his sister, Afiya, only to enlist with the schutztruppe, a band of African mercenaries, and subject her once more to the cruel treatment of the family who raised her after their parents were killed. Elsewhere, Hamza, a fellow townsman with an enigmatic past, joins the Germans as a mercenary and is subsequently immersed in a bloody territorial war among the European colonial powers. Years later, he meets and falls for Afiya, and their attempts to locate Ilyas, who went missing during the war, close out the novel. Gurnah's spare, unvarnished prose shines a harsh but honest light on the brutality of Africa's colonial past and the violence inflicted by Europeans, which amounts to "absurd and nonchalant heroics," and through his rich main characters, the impact of colonialism and other key global events truly hits home. This profound account of empire and the everyman is not to be missed. Agent: Peter Straus, RCW.