Damon Galgut takes home Booker Prize for The Promise

It was a case of third time lucky for author Damon Galgut, winner of the 2021 Booker Prize. Nominated in 2003 for The Good Doctor and again in 2010 for In a Strange Room, it was multi-generational saga The Promise that saw the South African writer finally score one of the most prestigious awards in literature.

Of the win, Galgut said:

“This has been a great year for African writing. 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 come from. Please keep listening to us.”

Beginning in 1986 with the titular promise made to a dying woman and the black housekeeper who cared for her, the novel follows the Swarts, a white South African family living on a farm outside Pretoria. Framed around four funerals across four decades, the narrative shifts between family members, moving from generation to generation, and through the country’s transition away from apartheid. And yet, all the while, the promise itself remains unfulfilled.

Chair of judges, historian Maya Jasanoff, said:

“…The Promise manages to pull together the qualities of great storytelling – it’s a book that has a lot to chew on – with remarkable attention to structure and literary style. With each reading of this book, it revealed something new.”

The winner of the Booker Prize takes home £50,000 (approx $91,700 AUD), with all shortlisted authors receiving £2,500 (approx $4,500 AUD). The other shortlisted works included:

  • A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
  • No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
  • The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
  • Bewilderment by Richard Powers
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

For more info on the Booker Prize, you can check out the website HERE.

Jodie Sloan

she/her Brisbane/Meanjin I like fancy cocktails, pro wrestling, and spooky shit.