57 pages 1 hour read

Abdulrazak Gurnah


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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The Oppression of Colonized People

Afterlives depicts what it is like to live in an occupied land. Throughout the novel, the colonized Tanzanian characters contend with racial discrimination, political and economic turmoil, and getting caught up in a war between rival colonial powers. The experiences of the characters reveal the structural inequalities and deep injustices of the colonial system.

For those who remain behind after being conquered by an occupying force—thus, all the Tanzanian characters in the novel—life becomes first a matter of knowing the new rules, enforced first by the Germans and, later, the British. Khalifa becomes a person of real importance for his merchant boss Amur because he speaks German and can interpret the new regulations of the business world. Khalifa is also important because he is willing to negotiate payoffs, quiet meetings, and secret shipments. One of the reasons for this secrecy is that the occupying force has no interest in the concerns of small entrepreneurs and the economic interests of the average Tanzanian. The Germans want to control the flow of goods on a macro scale. The conquerors bring in international businessmen with whom they are already familiar, creating a new superstructure of enterprise that flows completely out of reach of the small Tanzanian businessperson.

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By Abdulrazak Gurnah

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Abdulrazak Gurnah


Abdulrazak Gurnah