Damon Galgut’s latest novel, The Promise, was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize for 2021 on Wednesday November 3. The announcement was made at a lavish event held in London.
The Green Point author has been shortlisted for the prize twice before for The Good Doctor, in 2003, and In a Strange Room, in 2010.
In his acceptance speech, he said: “It’s taken a long time to get here and now that I have, I kind of feel that I shouldn’t be here. This could just have easily gone to any of the other amazing, talented people on this list and a few others who aren’t but seen as the good fortune has fallen to me, let me say, this has been a great year for African writing and I’d like to accept this on behalf of all the stories, told and untold, the writers heard and unheard, from the remarkable continent that I am part of.”
The Promise is the story of a family, but also of South Africa, told over 40 years. It is split in four parts, each one centred on a family funeral in a different decade, while the family fights over a piece of land outside Pretoria and a deathbed promise, unkept, is overheard. In the background, the country’s politics changes.
“In an unassuming, tentative way, Damon Galgut has dedicated his life to writing,” says Fourie Botha, Galgut’s local publisher. “Seeing how the world takes notice of this masterful writer is almost as pleasurable as reading his sentences and realising you’re dealing with words that are charmed.”
Mr Galgut published his first novel at 17 and since then his work has been translated into 16 languages. Two films were made of his book The Quarry. Locally, his previous novel, Arctic Summer, was awarded the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.
With this latest award, he joins the ranks of South African Booker Prize winners, JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer.
Anroux Marais, cultural affairs and sport MEC, congratulated Mr Galgut on his win.
“We are exceptionally proud to see our local authors performing well on the world stage and receiving international literary awards for sharing unique South African stories,” she said.