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Paradise [Paperback]

Abdulrazak Gurnah
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Jan 1995
Shortlisted for the 1994 Booker and Whitbread Prizes, this book is set in the decade before World War I, in the garden of a merchant's house on the coast of East Africa. Yusuf is 12 when he is sold into the service of the rich, perfumed merchant whom he has always known as "uncle" Aziz.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (30 Jan 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565841638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565841635
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 13.7 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,202,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Gurnah evokes his world in poetic prose which is pure and lucid — a small paradise in itself.’ -- Guardian

‘Paradise is alive with the unexpected. In it, an obliterated world is enthrallingly retrieved.’ -- Sunday Times

‘The pleasures, sadnesses and losses in all the shining facets of this book are lingering and exquisite.’ -- Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar and teaches at the University of Kent. He is the author of the novels Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise, Admiring Silence and By the Sea. His fourth novel, Paradise (1994) was shortlisted for both the Booker and the Whitbread Prizes. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age in a Changing Africa 25 May 2005
Format:Paperback
'Paradise' is the coming of age story of Yusuf, a twelve-year old boy when the story opens in an East Africa on the brink of change with the Anglo-German conflict of the First World War looming. The young Yusuf is indentured to the rich trader Aziz, who Yusuf believes to be his uncle, in order to pay off his father's debts. As the story develops, Yusuf gets to experience being a part of the trading caravans that linked the diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups of the region during this bygone era. Against the background of a changing world, the maturing Yusuf must start to make some decisions on the direction of his own life....
'Paradise' contains a number of interesting characters: the good-natured banter between Sikh Harbans Singh (Kalasinga) and Muslim Hamid Suleiman is a real treat, as is the interaction between Yusuf and similarly indentured shopkeeper Khalil. Undoubtedly, the stand-out feature of 'Paradise' is Gurnah's beautiful poetic prose: every aspect of this novel was completely mesmerising from the first word to the last. 'Paradise' succeeds on many levels: as a coming of age story; commentary on slavery and colonialism; tale of travel and adventure in a past world; and story dealing with first-love and friendships. 'Paradise' was short-listed for the Booker back in '94 and richly deserves a continued wide readership. I hope to read more of Gurnah's work, and have bought Gurnah's critically acclaimed 'By the Sea' on the strength of my enchantment with 'Paradise'.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
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 trying to impose their own cultures.
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 an adult's need for love.
Yusuf, as a young child/adolescent, is an obvious symbol of Tanzania itself at this stage of its history. Just as Yusuf must come of age, so also must the country as the various groups contending for influence must 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 all contending for influence, within Yusuf and within the loose, artificial borders of Tanzania.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age in a Changing Africa 25 May 2005
Format:Paperback
'Paradise' is the coming of age story of Yusuf, a twelve-year old boy when the story opens in an East Africa on the brink of change with the Anglo-German conflict of the First World War looming. The young Yusuf is indentured to the rich trader Aziz, who Yusuf believes to be his uncle, in order to pay off his father's debts. As the story develops, Yusuf gets to experience being a part of the trading caravans that linked the diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups of the region during this bygone era. Against the background of a changing world, the maturing Yusuf must start to make some decisions on the direction of his own life....
'Paradise' contains a number of interesting characters: the good-natured banter between Sikh Harbans Singh (Kalasinga) and Muslim Hamid Suleiman is a real treat, as is the interaction between Yusuf and similarly indentured shopkeeper Khalil. Undoubtedly, the stand-out feature of 'Paradise' is Gurnah's beautiful poetic prose: every aspect of this novel was completely mesmerising from the first word to the last. 'Paradise' succeeds on many levels: as a coming of age story; commentary on slavery and colonialism; tale of travel and adventure in a past world; and story dealing with first-love and friendships. 'Paradise' was short-listed for the Booker back in '94 and richly deserves a continued wide readership. I hope to read more of Gurnah's work, and have bought Gurnah's critically acclaimed 'By the Sea' on the strength of my enchantment with 'Paradise'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter sweet but good if you're in that mood 26 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this story rather sad, but in a good way. Evocative of the atmosphere of East Afica in that timespan, I found the main character did grip my interest enough to read this in very few sessions. Anyone who enjoys Africa stories and romance will enjoy this, even if it is tinged with disappointment.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Paradise 11 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Clearly not paradise as we understand it. A different world to ours, with relatives given into slavery in return for debts.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
posted as advertised and on time
Published 28 days ago by alhaze
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel - new author to me
I am enjoying the book, though feel a bit distanced from the main character, not simply because the location and culture are different. It's an okay read.
Published on 13 May 2012 by J. L. Bryant
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing!
I bought this as my choice for our 'Book Group' on the strength of the other reviews and it was an Amazon recommended read as I had highly rated Daphne du Marier's Rebecca. Read more
Published on 19 Nov 2011 by monkeyswing
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but typical Booker exoticism
A nice coming of age story, but a little formulaic in my opinion, and fortunate upon the Booker prize favouritism towards exoticism and the post-colonial. Read more
Published on 18 Dec 2006 by ClareSS
5.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively simple, beautifully realized.
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... Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2003 by Mary Whipple
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradise
An exquisite tale of turn of the century Swahili culture, when the culture was at its apogee before the advent of 'white' colonisation. This is a glittering and perfect novel.
Published on 2 Oct 2002 by Satchu
4.0 out of 5 stars Takes a second reading to fully enjoy this book
Paradise is not a hard book to read, but can be difficult to get into. However, for those who read it through, the result is worthwhile. Read more
Published on 8 Dec 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars A most poetic reconstruction of a lost culture
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. Read more
Published on 10 July 1998
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