57 pages 1 hour read

Abdulrazak Gurnah


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Character Analysis


Khalifa is the son of an African mother and Indian father who migrated to Tanzania. An only child, Khalifa benefits from his father’s desire to provide for him, as he learns to read and write and speak German. His clerical skills land him a position with a small bank. Khalifa is engaging, a good listener, and a fount of information about local happenings and individuals. These qualities, along with his willingness to transcend the letter of the law, put him in the good graces of Amur, a well-known merchant in Tanga who has the reputation of being unscrupulous. For Amur, Khalifa is something of a fixer, someone who does his boss’s bidding without participating in Amur’s decision-making processes.

Like most of the characters in the narrative, Khalifa experiences profound feelings of loss and yearning. The rapid, consecutive deaths of his parents fill him with guilt and loneliness. Soon afterward, however, Amur “gives” Khalifa his orphaned niece, Asha, as his wife. Khalifa loves her and finds her attractive. They share a dislike and distrust of Amur and his son and successor Nassor.

The narrative brings three more significant individuals into Khalifa’s life. First is youthful Ilyas, a new employee at the town’s sisal factory who becomes Khalifa’s best friend.

Related Titles

By Abdulrazak Gurnah