For centuries, intrepid traders and sailors, most of them barbarous and poor no doubt, made the annual journey to that stretch of coast on the eastern side of the continent, which had cusped so long ago to receive the musim winds.” – Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea

In Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah’s sixth novel, By the Sea, two men hailing from the Zanzibar Archipelago off the coast of east Africa reconnect in the United Kingdom where each has sought asylum. The novel asks what can be recovered from histories of violence and family ruin, while holding a light to colonial legacies in east Africa and beyond.

Framed within a few days in 1995, Gurnah’s finely structured story is narrated by its two protagonists. Their recollections of a distant coastal homeland begin to seem unstable. By staging this collision of memory, Gurnah probes the tenuous foundations of family, nationhood and empire, questioning the stories we tell ourselves about our place in the world, and the means by which we tell them.

Encompassing the years of Zanzibar’s independence from British rule and subsequent revolution, the novel centres Southern worlds along the east African coastline and ancient oceanic trade routes, charting nuanced histories of Southern exchange and entanglement across the Indian Ocean.

The Stories from the South Book Club will meet live at Dymocks Bookstore Rundle Mall on April 30 at 6-7.30pm.

The discussion will be hosted by senior lecturer in English at SOAS University of London Kai Easton with poet David Ishaya Osu and writer Morgan Nunan.

Register here for this free public event. Copies of By the Sea can be purchased at Dymocks Rundle Mall or sourced from libraries or electronically.

A reading guide for By the Sea will be released soon. Follow InReview and the website’s Stories from the South page for further updates on the Stories from the South program.

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