Afterlives, published in 2020 is, to date, Abdulrazak Gurnah’s latest novel. This article reads Afterlives as an exponent of the interruption-continuation framework that defines the Gurnahian oeuvre. The abrupt ending that assails the narrative flow of Paradise (1994) with its protagonist, young Yusuf, hiding from the sight of the arrival of the German Army finds its continuation in Hamza (Afterlives) who has volunteered to fight with the Germans in the First World War. As expressions of the same Lukácsian literary type, Yusuf’s and Hamza’s delicate beauty is a constant reminder of the fragility of a world that survives by mere acts of storytelling. Therefore, I claim that Afterlives must be inscribed in the larger interruption- continuation design of the storytelling community that characterizes the Indian Ocean and that is continuously re-narrating itself. The story of Hamza branches out, in a rhizomatic fashion, into the devastating story of colonialism in East Africa without losing its firm rootedness in the narrative architecture of One Thousand and One Nights. The lives that configure the narrative space of Afterlives are construed as a suspended paradise, elusive and evanescent, but imbued with an unmistaken vigor to survive or, as the title of the novel surmises, an inveterate urge to surmount death and oblivion.


Abdulrazak Gurnah, displacement, Indian Ocean, postcolonial rhizome, storytelling, survival, trauma

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
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Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
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Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
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Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
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University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
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Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
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Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
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Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
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Barnard College (US)
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Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)