I thought it was a 'joke!': Nobel Prize literature winner

"You pick up the phone and you don't know who's calling, and somebody says to you, 'You've won the Nobel Prize' and you think, 'Oh yeah,'" he told reporters outside his home in Canterbury, England.

Based in Britain and writing in English, Gurnah, 72, joins Nigeria's Wole Soyinka as the only two non-white writers from sub-Saharan Africa ever to win what is widely seen as the world's most prestigious literary award.

His novels include "Paradise," set in colonial East Africa during the First World War and short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction, and "Desertion."

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