“The Promise” Wins The 2021 Booker Prize

Shutterstock / Mimma Key © the promise

“The Promise”, by South African writer Damon Galgut, has been awarded this year’s Booker Prize.

The novel follows the decline of a white family outside Pretoria over the course of four decades, each punctuated by a family funeral.

The chair of the judges, Maya Jasanoff, described it as “a tour de force”.

“It combines an extraordinary story, rich themes and the history of the last 40 years of South Africa in an incredibly well-wrought package,” she said.

“It manages to pull together the qualities of great storytelling, it has great ideas, it’s a book that has a lot to chew on, with remarkable attention to structure and literary style.”

“We arrived at a decision after a lot of discussion and arrived at a consensus around a book that is a real master of form and pushes the form in new ways, that has an incredible originality and fluidity of voice, and a book that’s really dense with historical and metaphorical significance.”

Galgut himself, though, seemed a little surprised by the win!

“I’m not used to winning things,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday. “And I just assumed that would be the case last night.

“Perhaps nobody was more amazed than me when things went my way.”

Third time lucky

Galgut has twice been nominated for the Booker Prize before: first in 2003 (for his novel “The Good Doctor”), then again in 2010 (for “In A Strange Room”).

“The Promise” is his ninth novel. His first was published when he was just seventeen years old. So it’s fair to say this recognition has been a long time coming!

And the author believes this recognition isn’t just good for him, but for Africa in general.

“The fact that the Nobel Prize winner this year came from Africa, the fact that the Booker has gone to an African, would suggest that the volume is going up on Africa,” he said.

“I hope that’s a process that will continue and that people will take African writing a little more seriously, because there’s a lot of great writing coming from us.”

The runners up

This year, the other nominated books were:

Last year’s Booker Prize was won by Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain.

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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.