When, in 2003, he became the first writer to win the Giller prize a second time, M.G. Vassanji modestly declared, "It felt like a mistake the first time and so this time, it's definitely a mistake, but I'll accept it anyway." Both of the Giller award winning novels, The Book of Secrets and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall are primarily set in East Africa and deal with the ambiguous situation of South Asians in East Africa who are neither indigenous Africans nor European colonizers. Many of them cannot find a familiar refuge on the Indian sub-continent nor in the colonial "home country." They are alienated from their African homelands regardless of their emotional attachments and legal status. Joanne Saul quotes Vassanji as arguing that the South Asian poet in Canada "may be said to possess that double vision which comes only when one is alienated from the dominant group." A similar double vision is evident in his novels. In contrasting one of Vassanji's works with that of Kenyan nationalist Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Peter Nazareth writes that it has been noted that, "Vassanji demonstrates how the individual is caught up in the conflicting demands of race and nation."
Moyez G. Vassangi was born in Kenya in 1950. When he was five, his father died and his family moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. His mother ran a clothing store in to support her five children. Vassanji won a scholarship to M.I.T. to study physics, and earned a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. He came to Canada in 1978 to work at the Chalk River nuclear lab. In 1980, he began lecturing in physics at the University of Toronto. He also began to write fiction having loved storytelling since his childhood in Dar es Salaam. Writing was a way of exploring his own past. His first novel, The Gunny Sack won a regional Commonwealth Prize in 1990. At that time he quit teaching to become a full-time writer. In 1994 he won his first Giller Prize and was listed in Maclean's annual Canadian honour roll. In the resulting article, Diane Turbide quotes Vassanji's declaration that , "Writing has allowed me to keep several worlds inside me, without letting go . . . I've been very lucky."
|The Works of M.G. Vassanji|
Links are included for works on Sale from Amazon.com:
1989 - The Gunny Sack - Novel
1991 - No New Land - Novel
1992 - Uhuru Street - Short Stories
1994 - The Book of Secrets - Novel
1998 - Meeting of Streams: South Asian Canadian Literature - Criticism editted by Vassanji
1999 - Amriika - Novel
2003 - The In-Between World of Vikram Lall - Novel
Agrell, Siri. "Humble Vassanji takes Giller for 2nd time: 'It's definitely a mistake,' winner says." National Post. 5 Nov. 2003: A2.
Nazareth, Peter. "The Novel and the Politics of Nation Building in East Africa." World Literature Today. 1 Jan. 2002: 122.
Saul. Joanne. "Displacement and self-representation: Theorizing contemporary Canadian biotexts" Biography. 1 Jan. 2001: 259.
Turbide, Diane. "Moyez G. Vassanji. (author)" Maclean's. 26 Nov. 1994: 46-47.