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By the Sea Hardcover – June 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 245 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565846583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565846586
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dense, accomplished and sharply conceived, this novel by Anglo-African writer Gurnah (Paradise; Admiring Silence) tells the story of 65-year-old Saleh Omar, a merchant refugee from Zanzibar who applies for asylum in England. A present-day Sinbad, Omar is fleeing a land where the evil jinn are the larcenous rulers equipped with all the accoutrements of contemporary authoritarianism concentration camps, rifles, kangaroo courts, etc. Upon arrival at Gatwick Airport, Omar presents an invalid visa, made out to his distant cousin and most hated enemy, Rajab Shaaban Mahmud. Advised not to demonstrate that he knows English, he puts on a charade of incomprehension for his caseworker, Rachel Howard, until uncomfortable circumstances force him to speak. In the meantime, Rachel contacts the English expert on Kiswahili, Latif Mahmud, who just happens to be the real Rajab Shaaban's son. Inevitably, the two men get together in a little seaside English town. Latif long ago cut off all relations with his Zanzibar family, having taken refuge in England in the '60s and gone on to become an English professor and poet, and a rather lonely single man. Saleh, he learns, has been pursued vindictively by Rajab and his wife, Asha, the mistress of a powerful minister. Due to recriminations over an inherited property, Saleh was eventually dispossessed of his house, arrested and imprisoned in various camps. Getting out, he starts over, only to be threatened by Latif's brother, Hassan. Gurnah's novel is a painful, unapologetically literate probe into the tragedy of the postcolonial world, where refugees are always emerging, "stunned, into the light of yet another gathering shambles." (June) Forecast: Paradise was short-listed for the Booker Prize, which should draw some critical attention to Gurnah's latest, though sales will likely be strongest at university bookstores.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Zanzibar author Gurnah, whose novel Paradise was a finalist for the Booker Prize, here illustrates the destructiveness of pride and the divergence of memory and truth. When Saleh Omar arrives in England from Zanzibar as a refugee, he hopes that he can leave behind his old life, marred by prison, death, and ruin. Instead, he encounters Latif, whose family's feud with Saleh destroyed nearly everyone involved. The two men's stories unwind slowly and gracefully, bringing the reader into a darkened room with the two old foes as they call forth ghosts, only to discover that the truth is often harder to believe than lies. Gurnah treats his characters like old friends, accepting their faults to see the dignity beneath. His portrayal of everyday immigrant life and quiet Muslim piety makes this a gentle, enjoyable read. Recommended for public libraries. Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I cannot imagine why this thoughtful and beautifully constructed novel by an author of immense talent is so little known and so little praised. It's a very strong book, filled with sensual images, subtle feelings, vibrant scenes, carefully plotted intrigue, and clear messages. Its scenes of family life and strife in Zanzibar, contrasted with the "civilized," bureaucratic, and officious behavior of the British at home and abroad, establish strong contrasts and illuminate the themes.

The book begins as a leisurely portrait of two lonely immigrants to England from Zanzibar, one of them a distinguished young professor and the other a 65-year-old asylum seeker who has just arrived, pretending he understands no English. As the points of view shift back and forth between the two men in succeeding sections of the novel, we come to know each man well--his life, his aspirations in Zanzibar, his extended family, the family's business connections there, and ultimately, the how and why of each man's emigration to England. Coming from two different generations, each man has a different view of his former country, the older man having spent most of his life there, escaping to England when all other hope is gone, and the younger having left as a young student, but still longing for the connections he left behind.

Powerful ironies drive the action. Each man knows who the other is, or was, in Zanzibar, and each believes that the other's family has brought about his own family's downfall there. As the two men tentatively explore the past and the old man reveals information the young man could never have known, the pace quickens until the past and the present merge and each of the men discovers hidden truths and new strengths. This is passionate book of clear vision, a book which recognizes harsh truths and still remains compassionate. Mary Whipple
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Foster on September 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Gurnah, a professor of English & post-colonial literature at the University of Kent, has written a wonderfully satisfying novel blending history & colonialization. He treats us to a glimps of the inner psychology of his characters. I read it years ago but still hear it's quite refrains. It has tremendous staying power.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Foster on September 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Gurnah, a professor of English & post-colonial literature at the University of Kent, has written a wonderfully satisfying novel blending history & colonialization. He treats us to a glimps of the inner psychology of his characters. I read it years ago but still hear it's quite refrains. It has tremendous staying power.
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