Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah

June 3, 2023
Posted in Book Reviews
June 3, 2023 Eugene

Paradise by Abdulrazak is an unusual book, as someone said. Religion (read Christianity) tells us that, at the sound of the trumpets, we shall ascend into paradise, but for Yusuf, this is different. He has traversed different worlds, different perspectives, and definitely different religions to even ping on one definition of “paradise.”

What if paradise is what we create it to be? Our new home is somewhere we wish to return to after a long journey around the world. A place we long to be, paradise, a place that actually wants us as much as we want it. To be inside it, tend to its garden, clear its trenches, and let the dirty waters flow out into the sea.

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah, despite taking a month to finish, is a short read with a roller-coaster of emotions and intricate stories of brotherhood, religion, African culture, trade, apprenticeship, child labor, and colonialism through the eyes of a young boy who leaves his home innocently and sets out on a life journey and grows up to a man in quest for knowledge and what life has set out for him at the end, a paradise.

You start off trying to find a footing in Razak’s writing style, with so many plots within a story, but always keep going with the curiosity of wanting to know what will happen next. Reliving the experience with Yusuf, I wanted to know more about our raw and rich history. With every page, every step, every new town, and every new character, I grew fond of the literature. I wanted to learn history through the eyes of a traveler and trader and compare it to what we learned in history books during my days in school.

Intriguing is, to say the least, what this book is. I am a morning person, and several mornings have been made by the plots and turns of the story, buried deeply within the 245 pages of this amazing book. Today, together with Joan Zoya and other bibliophiles who fancy the works of Abdulrazak, we will be reviewing the book, and I can’t wait to hear the thoughts, experiences, and perspectives of other readers.

One of the novel’s fundamental findings is that identity is not a fixed concept, but rather a fluid and dynamic concept influenced by our experiences and relationships with others. Yusuf’s journey exemplifies the difficulties of negotiating multiple cultural identities, as well as the manner in which our sense of self is continually shifting.

Another significant takeaway from the story is the long-term influence of colonialism on African communities. Gurnah depicts how colonialism disturbed traditional ways of life, creating a sense of cultural dislocation and alienation among its people. The story also emphasizes African nations’ continual battle to declare their independence and restore their cultural heritage in the face of continued Western influence.

Grab a copy because you should, but better yet, get his entire collection and join us on the #ReadRazak challenge as we read and review a book a month and explore the mind of this interesting writer.