South African novelist Damon Galgut was awarded the 2021 Booker Prize for his novel The Promise (Europa Editions). The novel follows the lives of three white siblings brought together by a series of funerals that follow the trajectory of the history of post-apartheid South Africa. Galgut had been shortlisted for the Booker twice before, in 2003 and 2010.
In awarding the prize, the judges called the book, a "spectacular demonstration of how the novel can make us see and think afresh." They also praised its “unusual narrative style that balances Faulknerian exuberance with Nabokovian precision, pushes boundaries, and is a testament to the flourishing of the novel in the 21st century.”
Galgut remained modest in his acceptance of the prize, which carries a £50,000 cash award ($68,000), and said that the award could have gone to "any of the other amazing talented people on this list and a few others who aren’t." He went on to note that, while he had not traveled anywhere in the past year, the “book has gone everywhere” and “seems to have touched the human condition in lots of places.”
He went on to point out that this has been "a great year for African writing." Galgut's win comes just a day after Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious book prize, for his novel La plus Secrète Mémoire Des Hommes, and weeks after Tanzanian British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize for literature.
"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’m part of," Galgut said. "Please keep listening to us. There’s a lot more to come."