Paradise is a historical novel by UK Zanzibar-born writer Abdulrazak Gurnah. The novel was nominated for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize for Fiction.
The novel follows the story of Yusuf, a boy born in the fictional town of Kawa in Tanzania at the turn of the twentieth century. Yusuf’s father is a hotelier and is in debt to a rich and powerful Arab merchant named Aziz. Early in the story Yusuf is pawned in exchange for his father’s owed debt to Aziz and must work as an unpaid servant for the merchant. Yusuf joins Aziz’s caravan as they travel into parts of Central Africa and the Congo Basin that have not been traded with for many generations. Here, Aziz’s caravan of traders meets hostility from local tribes, wild animals and difficult terrain. As the caravan returns to East Africa, World War I begins and Aziz encounters the German Army as they sweep Tanzania, forcibly conscripting African men as soldiers.
African literary scholar J. U. Jacobs claims that Gurnah is writing back to Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novel Heart of Darkness. In Aziz’s easterly journey to the Congo, Jacobs says that Gurnah is challenging the dominant Western images of the Congo at the turn of the twentieth century that continue to pervade the popular imagination.