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Gravel Heart: By the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021
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Bloomsbury Publishing 2017
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A powerful story of exile, migration, and betrayal, from the Booker Prize–shortlisted author of Paradise.

Salim has always known that his father does not want him. Living with his parents and his adored Uncle Amir in a house full of secrets, he is a bookish child, a dreamer haunted by night terrors. It is the 1970s and Zanzibar is changing. Tourists arrive, the island's white sands obscuring the memory of recent conflict—the longed-for independence from British colonialism swiftly followed by bloody revolution. When his father moves out, retreating into disheveled introspection, Salim is confused and ashamed. His mother does not discuss the change, nor does she explain her absences with a strange man; silence is layered on silence.

When glamorous Uncle Amir, now a senior diplomat, offers Salim an escape, the lonely teenager travels to London for college. But nothing has prepared him for the biting cold and seething crowds of this hostile city. Struggling to find a foothold, and to understand the darkness at the heart of his family, he must face devastating truths about those closest to him—and about love, sex and power. Evoking the immigrant experience with unsentimental precision and profound understanding, Gravel Heart is a powerfully affecting story of isolation, identity, belonging, and betrayal, and Abdulrazak Gurnah's most astonishing achievement.

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Street Date:
08/01/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781632868923
ASIN:
B0711MHVZG
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APA Citation (style guide)

Abdulrazak Gurnah. (2017). Gravel Heart: By the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Abdulrazak Gurnah. 2017. Gravel Heart: By the Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Abdulrazak Gurnah, Gravel Heart: By the Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Abdulrazak Gurnah. Gravel Heart: By the Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Abdulrazak Gurnah is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. He is the author of ten novels: Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award), Admiring Silence, By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize) The Last Gift, Gravel Heart, and Afterlives, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Fiction 2021 and longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize. He was Professor of English at the University of Kent, and was a Man Booker Prize judge in 2016. He lives in Canterbury.
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title
Gravel Heart
fullDescription

A powerful story of exile, migration, and betrayal, from the Booker Prize–shortlisted author of Paradise.

Salim has always known that his father does not want him. Living with his parents and his adored Uncle Amir in a house full of secrets, he is a bookish child, a dreamer haunted by night terrors. It is the 1970s and Zanzibar is changing. Tourists arrive, the island's white sands obscuring the memory of recent conflict—the longed-for independence from British colonialism swiftly followed by bloody revolution. When his father moves out, retreating into disheveled introspection, Salim is confused and ashamed. His mother does not discuss the change, nor does she explain her absences with a strange man; silence is layered on silence.

When glamorous Uncle Amir, now a senior diplomat, offers Salim an escape, the lonely teenager travels to London for college. But nothing has prepared him for the biting cold and seething crowds of this hostile city. Struggling to find a foothold, and to understand the darkness at the heart of his family, he must face devastating truths about those closest to him—and about love, sex and power. Evoking the immigrant experience with unsentimental precision and profound understanding, Gravel Heart is a powerfully affecting story of isolation, identity, belonging, and betrayal, and Abdulrazak Gurnah's most astonishing achievement.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content: The measured elegance of Gurnah's prose renders his protagonist in a manner almost uncannily real . . . Gurnah's portrayal of student immigrant life in Britain is pleasingly deliberate and precise, and also riveting . . . Even the minor characters in this novel have richly imagined histories that inflect their smallest interactions—one of the loveliest pleasures of this book, and a choice that makes its world exceptionally full.
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: This well-crafted novel finds its protagonist suspended between two cultures, a part of each yet apart from both.
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: Gurnah finds a beautiful, quiet, contemplative tone in which to describe and reflect on Salim's experiences of displacement and discovery.
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: Without sentimentality, the author imparts an affecting story of isolation, the search for identity, and loneliness at home, as well as in the large, hostile capital of a foreign nation where Salim is clearly not wanted . . . Compelling, drawing the reader directly into the life of young Salim and his pursuit of answers and understanding.
      • premium: False
      • source: Sunday Herald
      • content: A work of post-colonial literature that entertainingly intertwines migration and a tale of family drama . . . Gurnah has rightly been praised for his masterful storytelling . . . Gurnah hits upon an intriguing conflict: the post-colonial individual who becomes anglicised out of choice. It's a poignant moment when Salim realises he is becoming naturalised . . . Gurnah conveys Salim's shifting conception of his own nationality—a diminishing loyalty to the country of his birth—very well . . . An emotive tale about betrayal, families and the East African diaspora.
      • premium: False
      • source: Mail on Sunday
      • content: A colourful tale of life in a Zanzibar village, where passions and politics reshape a family . . . Expect echoes of Shakespeare's Measure For Measure, which provides the book's title, in two nights and 100 pages of powerful narrative.
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Journal of Books
      • content: Gravel Heart is a look at an era and a culture that's not often showcased in the literary world.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Millions, "Most Anticipated"
      • content: Gurnah's Gravel Heart is a book that may remind some readers of the author's Man Booker Prize finalist, Paradise. It circles around the falling of a society, herein Zanzibar, in the wake of colonial disruption. The protagonist, Salim, is caught in the midst of all this, and his slow spinning—internally and externally—revolves into a moving portraiture of a man caught in a web of things, hard and difficult. The structure of the book pays homage to William Shakespeare, and it may [be] this that solidifies Gurnah's sixth novel as an ambitious work worthy of attention.
      • premium: False
      • source: Times Literary Supplement
      • content: In the final, powerful section of Gravel Heart, Abdulrazak Gurnah's new novel, the narrator Salim travels to Zanzibar to visit his mother's grave and finally learn from his father what it was that destroyed their family many years previously. Salim has been living in England, studying literature, while his father has recently resumed life as a hermit in the back of a shop after several years in Kuala Lumpur. In a moving passage, Gurnah uses their conversation to highlight how disorientating it was for both the father and son to grow up bookish in Tanzania when most books represented a culture that vilified Muslims and Africans
      • premium: False
      • source: Washington Independent Review of Books
      • content: What sets Gravel Heart apart from the many other books on the immigrant experience are Gurnah's deeper themes . . . Gravel Heart is much more than the story of a boy trying to uncover his family's secret. Ultimately, it's a story about trying find one's place in the worldR
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        June 12, 2017
        Not until over a hundred pages into this novel does Salim, the narrator whose life we follow and whose thoughts we inhabit, say out loud to anyone in his adopted country where he’s from: Zanzibar, a small island off the east coast of Africa. The conversation in which this information is revealed takes place in Brighton, England, where Salim has moved after three years in London in order to start over. First brought to England after high school by his wealthy ambassador uncle, Salim floundered in business school and so resolved to make the life he wanted, studying literature and living alone even though it meant supporting himself. The first third of the novel reflects the almost entirely interior world of Salim’s upbringing in a tiny house in Zanzibar, carefully observing the adults around him. An observant and dutiful child, Salim is bewildered when his father leaves home and becomes a shadow of his former self, living across town. At age 11, Salim begins bringing his father a basket lunch every day, “like taking food to a prisoner.” Once Salim is in his 30s, the events behind his father’s leaving and his mother’s continued dedication to her husband become clear, the result of a corrupt government official and impossible choices no one should have had to make. Although the book is slow to start, Gurnah (By the Sea) finds a beautiful, quiet, contemplative tone in which to describe and reflect on Salim’s experiences of displacement and discovery.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        July 1, 2017
        A boy searches for answers, home, his identity, and his destiny after mysterious family circumstances transplant him from his native Zanzibar to London.A veteran novelist who was born in Zanzibar and has long been a professor of literature in England, Gurnah (The Last Gift, 2014, etc.) offers a first-person narrative involving rites of passage for a character whose circumstances are similar to his own. At a pivotal point the narrator says, "I felt like a character at the end of a novel on his way to adventure and fulfilment." Not so fast, for the protagonist has barely made his way through a third of this tale, and fulfillment might not be a realistic expectation. What little he's learned about the world has come from reading novels, a passion he inherited from his father, who has abandoned the household in something resembling disgrace, with the son sent to England to study business under the patronage of his more worldly, glamorous uncle. "Something broke in my father's life a long time ago and I was the debris of [my parents'] disordered lives," says Salim, as he has belatedly introduced himself. The source of this disorder remains a mystery to Salim even after the birth of a sister whose father could not possibly be his. He angers his uncle by rejecting business for the study of literature and finds a measure of independence as he experiences a sexual awakening. Yet his mother's death brings him back to a very different Zanzibar, post-revolutionary and now teeming with tourists. His father, who had been all but silent throughout his son's narration, now feels himself compelled to illuminate the dark secrets that have split his family, and he does so through a series of chapters that function almost like soliloquies, letting Salim know what his mother did and why. Like a lot of similar fiction, this well-crafted novel finds its protagonist suspended between two cultures, a part of each yet apart from both.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        July 1, 2017

        At the core of this novel by Gurnah (By the Sea and Paradise) is a family secret that young Salim must discover in order to be at peace with himself. Every afternoon, his mother asks him to take a basket of food to his father, who lives as an impoverished recluse in a shopkeeper's back room a short distance away and mutters only a word of thanks for the meal. Salim's mother refuses to answer her son's questions about this family situation. Years later, Salim attends university in London, eventually returning home to Zanzibar and visiting his father in the same hovel where he last saw him. Over the course of several days, Salim's father finally confides to his son the dark secret that keeps him estranged from his wife and children. Without sentimentality, the author imparts an affecting story of isolation, the search for identity, and loneliness at home, as well as in the large, hostile capital of a foreign nation where Salim is clearly not wanted. VERDICT Though it would have benefited from some tightening to make the narrative to flow more smoothly, this novel is ultimately compelling, drawing the reader directly into the life of young Salim and his pursuit of answers and understanding. [See Prepub Alert, 2/13/17.]--Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription

A powerful story of exile, migration, and betrayal, from the Booker Prize–shortlisted author of Paradise.

Salim has always known that his father does not want him. Living with his parents and his adored Uncle Amir in a house full of secrets, he is a bookish child, a dreamer haunted by night terrors. It is the 1970s and Zanzibar is changing. Tourists arrive, the island's white sands obscuring the memory of recent conflict—the longed-for independence from British colonialism swiftly followed by bloody revolution. When his father moves out, retreating into disheveled introspection, Salim is confused and ashamed. His mother does not discuss the change, nor does she explain her absences with a strange man; silence is layered on silence.

When glamorous Uncle Amir, now a senior diplomat, offers Salim an escape, the lonely teenager travels to London for college. But nothing has prepared him for the biting cold and seething crowds of this...

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