November 10, 2021

South African Writer Damon Galgut Wins the 2021 Booker Prize for His Novel 'The Promise'

The South African novelist and playwright Damon Galgut has won the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction. His family saga novel The Promise bested 5 other books that made it to the shortlist. Galgut is the third South African writer to take home the prestigious fiction prize. The other two are J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer. Coetzee actually won the award not just once but twice. He won it in 1983 for Life & Times of Michael K then won it again in 1999 for Disgrace. Gordimer won in 1974 for her novel The Conservationist.

Galgut's victory was announced on November 3, 2021 during a ceremony conducted at the BBC Radio Theatre. Aside from the literary prestige and the boost in sales of the book, Galgut will also receive £50,000 in cash. Prior to winning the 2021 Booker Prize, two other novels by Galgut was shortlisted in the same award. The Good Doctor was shortlisted in 2003 and In a Strange Room was shortlisted in 2010. Galgut lost to Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre in 2003 and to The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson in 2010.

Back in September which was around the time that the shortlist for the award was announced, Galgut was interviewed by Hephzibah Anderson for an article published in The Guardian. Anderson asked Galgut the following question: "How has being a two-time Booker Prize finalist affected your career?"

Galgut's answer: "It really did change my prospects in a way that almost nothing else could have done. Having said that, prize lists are problematic in all sorts of ways and there’s such a frenzy surrounding this particular prize that one feels almost guilty benefiting from it. I don’t cope that well with big public events or too much attention, so both shortlistings probably shaved a few years off my life."

So far, reader response to The Promise has been very positive so far. Of the hundreds of reviews and thousands of ratings on Goodreads, the book currently enjoys an average rating of 4.09 stars out of 5.

The other novels that made it to the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction are:

1. A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
2. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
3. The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
4. Bewilderment by Richard Powers
5. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Previous novels by Galgut:

1. A Sinless Season
2. Small Circle of Beings
3. The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs
4. The Quarry
5. The Good Doctor
6. The Impostor
7. In a Strange Room
8. Arctic Summer

Galgut also wrote plays:

1. Echoes of Anger
2. Party for Mother
3. Alive and Kicking
4. The Green's Keeper