South African author Damon Galgut on Wednesday won the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel The Promise. He had been nominated for the award in 2003 and 2010 also.
The Promise is Galgut’s first novel in seven years. The book is set during South Africa’s transition out of apartheid – a system of racial segregation that existed between 1948 and the early ’90s.
“The book explores the interconnected relationships between the members of a diminishing white family through the sequential lens of four funerals,” according to The Booker Prizes website.
The judges described the novel as a “tour de force”, The Guardian reported. “It combines an extraordinary story with rich themes – the history of the last 40 years in South Africa – in an incredibly well-wrought package,” Maya Jasanoff, the chair of the Booker judges, said.
Jasanoff added that the book had the qualities of “great storytelling”. “It is a book that has a lot to chew on – with remarkable attention to structure and literary style,” she said, according to The Guardian. “With each reading of this book, it revealed something new.”
Galgut said he was “profoundly, humbly grateful” for the honour, AFP reported. “It’s taken a long while to get here and now that I have, I kind of feel that I shouldn’t be here,” the author said.
Galgut added that 2021 had been a great year for African writing. In October, Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“I’d like to accept this [award] on behalf of all the stories told and untold, the writers heard and unheard, from the remarkable continent I’m part of,” Galgut said. “Please keep listening to us, there’s a lot more to come.”
The five other titles shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year were A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed, No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead and Bewilderment by Richard Powers.