A melting pot of mercenaries: Afterlives, by Abdulrazak Gurnah, reviewed

‘That was how that part of the world was at the time. Every bit of it belonged to Europeans, at least on a map.’ That part of the world is East Africa, particularly what is now Tanzania, whose early-20th-century history is the backdrop to Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Afterlives. The novel spans the years preceding and during the first world war, when East Africa was colonised by the Germans and British. The turbulent history of the region is relayed through the unanchored lives of three adolescents — Hamza, Ilyas and his sister Afiya. For various reasons, they find themselves uprooted and isolated from their families. Their life paths cross via Khalifa, a