Cape Town-based author Damon Galgut’s latest novel, The Promise, has been awarded the prestigious Booker Prize for 2021.
The announcement was made at a lavish event held in London, United Kingdom.
‘Damon Galgut, after several shortlist nominations, has finally received the global acknowledgement he richly deserves,’ says Steve Connolly, CEO of Penguin Random House SA and Galgut’s local publisher.
‘Damon’s work, whether shining a light on the lies and travails of South Africa or interpreting the path of the great EM Forster as he wrote A Passage to India, is full of richness and nuance and it is a joy to know he is being read throughout the world.’
Two of Galgut’s previous novels, The Good Doctor and In a Strange Room, were shortlisted for the prize.
The Promise is the story of a family, but also of a country, over 40 years. In four parts, each one centred on a family funeral in a different decade, the family fights over a piece of land outside Pretoria. In the background, a different president is in power, and a different spirit hangs over the country. At the core of this mesmerising and at times darkly humorous novel is a deathbed promise by a mother that was never kept – a promise overheard by her young daughter Amor.
‘In an unassuming, tentative way, Damon Galgut has dedicated his life to writing,’ Fourie Botha, Galgut’s local publisher, says. ‘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.’
Hailed in the press as one of the world’s finest writers, Galgut published his first novel at 17, and his work has been translated into 16 languages. Two films have been made of his book The Quarry. Locally, his previous novel, Arctic Summer, was awarded the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.
The previous South Africans to win the prize are Nadine Gordimer, who won in 1974 for The Conservationist, and JM Coetzee, who won it twice, for Life and Times of Michael K in 1983, and Disgrace in 1999.
The rest of the shortlist for the 2021 Book Prize comprised of Anuk Arudpragasam (A Passage North), Patricia Lockwood (No One Is Talking About This), Nadifa Mohamed (The Fortune Men), Richard Powers (Bewilderment) and Maggie Shipstead (Great Circle).