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Paradise Paperback – Dec 6 1994


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Paperback, Dec 6 1994
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; Open market ed edition (Dec 6 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241135524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241135525
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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: 8 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Historical Novel of German East Africa May 31 2015
By James W. Fonseca - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A historical novel set around WWI in East Africa, modern-day Kenya and Tanzania, then the area around Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The Germans are moving in and building railroads. A young man from the interior is sold into bondage by his father to his uncle in payment of a debt. Poverty at home is such that the boy looks forward to a bone in his soup, so moving to the coastal city may be an improvement. The uncle owns a store in a coastal city and is a trader in the days of year-long pack-animal caravans into the heart of Africa (the lakes around where modern-day Congo and Uganda meet).

The story switches from the rural interior to the cosmopolitan urban coastal world. The boy and his uncle are Moslem; the young man who runs the store and takes charge of the boy is Indian; the interior folks have traditional African religions. There is discussion of differences among the various gods. The characters use a variety of languages including Arabic, German and English; the lingua franca is Swahili. There is much discussion of “what do the Europeans want?”

The boy’s trip into the interior is a stand-alone adventure story. In this all-male world of travelers and traders there is much homoerotic talk and some sex. Our narrator, who is a “pretty boy,” is constantly fending off advances from men. The beginning of the end starts when he begins to get involved with his master’s two wives. In the end the defining moment brings our main character back to the beginning: will he accept his serfdom for life or will he revolt? Everyone else accepts their serfdom: even if you are “freed,” where can you go? What would you do?

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