Gurnah is one of my favorite authors. With the exception of Paradise (his most famous work and my personal favorite), a lot of his books are about a young man who escapes war in Zanzibar by traveling to the UK. He then stays there for most of his life and struggles with all he’s lost, including his family. Being that such reflects Gurnah’s personal experience (he couldn’t even make it to his mother’s funeral), it is no surprise that such is the backdrop of Admiring Silence as well. But this book is mostly about how we tell our own stories, to ourselves and others, to be able to process our own realities. It’s also a story of love lost, and how silence creeps in to destroy and reshape relationships. How we use silence as a weapon to survive, to postpone dealing with feelings we cannot bear.
What I loved most about this story was the main character’s humor and cynicism. How we uses people’s bigotry to subtly make fun of them and lighten a very tense situation. It had me chuckle now and then, unexpected for a book about loss.
In this time of displacement and loss, of coping with shattered dreams (due to the pandemic and the new reality it has brought about), I can’t think of a more relevant work