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Paradise Hardcover – Jan 1 1950


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre (Jan. 1 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156584162X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565841628
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,054,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Gurnah's powerful, ironically titled story evokes the Edenic natural beauty of a continent on the verge of full-scale imperialist takeover by the European powers. Set in Colonial East Africa as English invaders drive natives off the land and Germans plan a railway across the continent, the novel focuses on Yusuf, a teenager sold by his father into indentured servitude at age 12 to pay off a debt. Working in the shop of his exploitive Uncle Aziz, then trekking with a trade caravan, callow Yusuf learns the ways of the world as he encounters an Africa rife with tribal warfare, superstition, disease and child slavery. He also falls hopelessly in love with Amina, the adoptive sister of a fellow indentured worker; she was married off, against her will, to the much older Aziz, who, we learn, may not be Yusuf's real uncle. Born in Zanzibar and currently a professor of literature in England, Gurnah ( Memory of Departure ) conjures a cauldron of animosities among African Muslims, Indian merchants, European farmers and native tribes in a vibrant coming-of-age story.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Gurnah's second novel and first American release melds a fascinating coming-of-age story and an indictment of the European colonization of Africa, with side ventures into African social and religious dynamics and natural and human brutalities. Sent to live with his "uncle," merchant Aziz, young protagonist Yusuf has no idea that he has been sold into slavery. Yusuf's growing awareness of his situation causes him little alarm, for his honesty and beauty make him a favorite of Aziz, the local townspeople, and fellow rehani (indentured slave) Khalil. However, his uncertain relationship with Aziz's enigmatic wife and her servant Amina teach Yusuf of honor, shame, love, and true slavery, leading him to a decision that gives the book its stunning denouement. Warmly recommended for substantial fiction collections.
- Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Format: Paperback
More than a coming-of-age story with an exotic setting, Paradise begins with 12-year-old Yusuf's sale by his father to settle a debt and ends with his decision at age twenty to escape his emotional imprisonment. Yusuf "progresses" from the countryside to a coastal city, from simple subsistence to the complexities of urban, mercantile life, from a child's pleasure with a coin to an adult's need for love. With his "Uncle Aziz," he travels to the highlands of a merchant route and eventually, on an ill-fated trading safari to the remote interior.
As Yusuf adapts both to the physical challenges of adolescence and to new mores demanded by the varied cultures in which he finds himself, the country, too, is coming of age and must either adapt to or reject outside influences. Tribal chieftains, Muslim traders, Indian shopkeepers, and German empire builders all contend for influence, within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania. Creating vivid images primarily through his selection of the perfect detail, Tanzanian-born Gurnah keeps his sentence structure deceptively simple, and it sings
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Format: Paperback
The author succeeds in conveying a highly poetic vision of Islamic East African Culture, without embellishing it or denying its dark side. A beautiful read. I will certainly read more by this author and search for other Black Africans, moslem or not, who can teach me more about their fascinating culture.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Deceptively simple, beautifully realized. July 11 2000
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A finalist in 1994 for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award, Paradise hides major themes and ideas within the seemingly simple story of Yusuf, a twelve-year-old boy in rural East Africa whose father sells him to a trader to settle a debt. East Africa is in turmoil--on the verge of World War I and the fighting which eventually develops between the Germans in Tanzania and the British in Kenya. Cities are growing, populations are moving, merchants are trading and selling, and colonialists from many countries are vying for influence.

When Yusuf is sold to his "uncle" Aziz, he leaves his remote rural village in what is now Tanzania and joins a trading caravan, traveling to the highlands and eventually on an ill-fated trading safari to the remote interior, discovering whole new worlds as he goes. In eight years of travel, he "progresses" from the countryside to a coastal city, from simple subsistence to the complexities of urban, mercantile life, and from his childish pleasure with a shiny coin to adult love.

As a young child/adolescent, Yusuf is an obvious symbol of Tanzania itself at this early stage in its history. Just as Yusuf must come of age, so also must the country as the various groups contending for influence make choices about how much they will accept, reject, or adapt to outside influences. As Yusuf comes into contact with tribal chieftains, Muslim traders, Indian shopkeepers, and German empire builders, the reader observes the impact of all of these groups both within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania.

Creating vivid images primarily through his selection of the perfect detail, Gurnah uses simple, poetic language to tell a delightful story loaded with important social and political observations, conveying clearly and objectively the historical background of the country in which the author was born. Dialogue is often filled with humor, and Yusuf becomes a real person, not a cardboard symbol. A novel which begins as a beautifully realized coming-of-age story develops into a story of high adventure, social and political realism, and eventually love. Mary Whipple
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A most poetic reconstruction of a lost culture July 9 1998
By Prof. R. Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The author succeeds in conveying a highly poetic vision of Islamic East African Culture, without embellishing it or denying its dark side. A beautiful read. I will certainly read more by this author and search for other Black Africans, moslem or not, who can teach me more about their fascinating culture.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Beautifully realized portrait of pre-World War I Tanzania. Aug. 1 2005
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A finalist in 1994 for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award, Paradise hides major themes and ideas within the seemingly simple story of Yusuf, a twelve-year-old boy in rural East Africa whose father sells him to a trader to settle a debt. East Africa is in turmoil--on the verge of World War I and the fighting which eventually develops between the Germans in Tanzania and the British in Kenya. Cities are growing, populations are moving, merchants are trading and selling, and colonialists from many countries are vying for influence.

When Yusuf is sold to his "uncle" Aziz, he leaves his remote rural village in what is now Tanzania and joins a trading caravan, traveling to the highlands and eventually on an ill-fated trading safari to the remote interior, discovering whole new worlds as he goes. In eight years of travel, he "progresses" from the countryside to a coastal city, from simple subsistence to the complexities of urban, mercantile life, and from his childish pleasure with a shiny coin to adult love.

As a young child/adolescent, Yusuf is an obvious symbol of Tanzania itself at this early stage in its history. Just as Yusuf must come of age, so also must the country as the various groups contending for influence make choices about how much they will accept, reject, or adapt to outside influences. As Yusuf comes into contact with tribal chieftains, Muslim traders, Indian shopkeepers, and German empire builders, the reader observes the impact of all of these groups both within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania.

Creating vivid images primarily through his selection of the perfect detail, Gurnah uses simple, poetic language to tell a delightful story loaded with important social and political observations, conveying clearly and objectively the historical background of Tanzania. Dialogue is often filled with humor, and Yusuf becomes a real person, not a cardboard symbol. A novel which begins as a beautifully realized coming-of age story develops into a story of high adventure, social and political realism, and eventually love. Mary Whipple
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Africa on the brink of colonization Oct. 22 2004
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gurnah's second novel, the first to be published in the US, takes place in East Africa at the beginning of the wave of European colonization. At its center is Yusuf, age 12, sold to a rich merchant in payment of his father's debt.

Wrenched from his rural home to work in the urban shop of "Uncle" Aziz, Yusuf does not at first realize he has been sold. He finds himself in a place where Indians, Arabs and African Muslims coexist in a complex hierarchy of languages, religions and cultures, united by their common interest in trade.

Their exploitation of each other is ruthless but based on traditions of power and debt. But the Europeans, still just a fabled presence, inspire stories of madness, insatiability and invulnerability. While many merchants believe they want to gobble the whole continent (for unfathomable reasons) Aziz calmly proclaims, "They're here for the same reason you and I are."

Yusuf, who asks many questions and receives few answers, adapts to town life, only to be abruptly drafted into Aziz' trading journeys to the interior. His first trip exposes him to the dusty hardship of life away from the coast and the comforting sympathy of kind people.

His second is a spectacular trek through remote lands filled with warring, hostile peoples, poisonous snakes, treachery, strange diseases and sudden, devastating weather. Through it all Yusuf perseveres, watching and listening, especially fascinated by the nighttime tales of the alien Europeans, who come closer every day.

While Yusuf is more a metaphor for Africa's exploitation than an individual, Gurnah's story is breathtaking for the tumultuos color of the life he describes, the vividness of Africa and the rich energy of his prose.
Flat and dull Sept. 29 2013
By E. Smiley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best description I can give of this book is that it reads like a translation, even though it isn't. There's a certain flatness and distance to the writing that I associate with poor translations, and this turned out to be a book I had to push myself through. Fortunately, it's short.

Paradise is the story of an adolescent boy, Yusuf, in early 20th century Tanzania. Yusuf's parents sell him to a merchant to satisfy a debt, and he spends the rest of the book working in the merchant's shop and accompanying him on a trading expedition to the interior. And that's the plot in its entirety. Apparently it's supposed to be a parable, mirroring the story of the Prophet Yusuf (the same person as Joseph in Genesis, unless I miss my guess). Unfortunately, the book is written in a plodding style and Yusuf is a non-entity, without personality or goals to keep the reader's interest. I've read interpretations arguing Yusuf was written as a blank state to symbolize Tanzania, which was at a crossroads (we see the beginning of European colonization here, as well as Arab and Indian influences). I suspect that does Tanzania a disservice, however, as no country could possibly be as boring as Yusuf.

I try to give foreign literature the benefit of the doubt, as there's always the possibility that I just lack the cultural background to understand it, and East African readers would doubtless appreciate this more than I do. There is some story here, albeit a plodding one, and there are sparks of character among the secondary cast, particularly the merchants. While there's not an enormous amount of cultural detail, the book did put Tanzania on my mental map in a way that it wasn't before. However, this book completely failed to entertain me, and I found little to appreciate in the writing. (My favorite line: " `I don't know,' Uncle Aziz said, shrugging with indifference." Yes, the shrug had already tipped me off to his indifference.)

In the end, not a book I'd recommend unless you are Tanzanian or are writing a thesis on a relevant topic. For the rest of us, not much to see here.

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