South African playwright and novelist Damon Galgut has won the 2021 Booker Prize for “The Promise”, his third shortlisted novel which chronicles a family in his homeland from the late apartheid era through to Jacob Zuma’s presidency.
Spanning several decades, the book shows the family’s growing disintegration as the country emerges into democracy.
“I am really profoundly, humbly grateful for this,” the 57-year-old said as he accepted the prestigious British award at a televised ceremony in London.
“It’s taken a long while to get here and now that I have, I kind of feel that I shouldn’t be here,” added the author, who wrote his first novel 17th aged.
“The Promise”, about a white family with a farm outside Pretoria where Galgut grew up was tipped to land the prize ahead of the announcement late Wednesday.
The white South African writer has said he wanted the critically acclaimed novel to show how “the passing of time” impacts a family, a country, its politics and “notions of justice” all while also exploring mortality.
Speaking immediately after winning the Booker, Galgut paid homage to his home continent.
“This has been a great year for African writing and 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,” he said.
“Please keep listening to us.
There’s a lot more to come.
Speaking to journalists, he pointed out that this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature had gone to another African writer, Zanzibar-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.
That “would suggest that perhaps the volume is going up in Africa,” he said.
Galgut’s win came just hours after the news that another African writer, 31-year-old Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, had won the Goncourt, France’s top literary prize.
South African Galgut wins Booker Prize for ‘The Promise’