Tanzanian-British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah— the winner of Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021, was at the Jaipur Literature Festival, delivering his keynote address in the inaugural session. During a roundtable discussion, The Quint's Nishtha Gautam caught up with the eminent writer who in a hearty chat, deliberated on a range of topics from immigrants in UK, their identity and take on international politics, implications of Brexit, rise of Rishi Sunak and taking the process of writing as a 'serious business'.
I want to ask about the relationship that immigrants, more like the perception they might share towards the monarchy in England because it's such a lived experience for white people and those born in that place and grow up with the monarchy as opposed to the POV of those who come from outside such as yourself. Do you think there is a difference in which immigrants perceive the monarchy?
I don't have much to say about the members of the monarchy for a lack of better sense. But people really do have a great deal of sympathy and feeling and affection for the institution which is held in high esteem and regard. Having said that, I'm not the right person to comment on how the immigrant community views the monarchy.
Post-Brexit, has there been a very practical, attitudinal shift when it comes to those who are not born in the UK or those who cannot claim five generations because earlier the immigrants used to be the coloured ones which is no longer the case necessarily.
I can't speak for the whole of UK. But I know what drove the campaign for Brexit, was a confused business. And a lot of the claims were duplicitous..of the Johnsons or whatever. Some people say that if you were to have that referendum again, now, it might very well go the other way.
The grievances were not just to do with brown-skinned people, but also also with the perception of Europeans taking jobs away. Whether it's true or not, all of that continues.
There was an immediate kind of triumphalism that succeeded Brexit. Now, there seems to me from reading newspapers and whatever, a greater sense of that perhaps, it wasn't the right decision.
This is just a personal observation. And I do want you to affirm or deny it. It appears that your life and career as an academic, deny the idea of a writer of being an insular genius. The characters are very lonely as you seem to delve very deep into their skin and tap into loneliness as a theme. As a writer, I feel you are a very happy and sort of a people's person. Am I right?
This interaction is really just for show whereas in reality, I'm quite a miserable figure most of the time. Sure, talking to people makes you open up in a way but I reckon writing as a serious business. So when I write, I probably wouldn't come across as jolly or cheerful as my entire concentration remains focussed on things I'm trying to evoke through it.