Damon Galgut wins 2021 Booker Prize with The Promise
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Friday 5th November 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Damon Galgut wins 2021 Booker Prize with The Promise
Oh, and HAPPY BONFIRE NIGHT!!! Here’s a real banger of a book to set you on fire.
Damon Galgut wins Booker Prize with ‘tour de force’ novel The Promise
South African author Damon Galgut has won the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction at the third attempt for his novel The Promise.
Galgut, who was previously nominated in 2003 and 2010, picked up the £50,000 prize at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The Promise is his ninth novel and follows the decline of one South African family over four decades from the apartheid era to the present day.
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.”
The title, The Promise, refers to a pledge that the white family’s black maid would be given the house she inhabits and the land it stands on.
The Promise by Damon Galgut is an excellent winner. In my view it is an outstanding book and it is hard to disagree with the critic who said: “This is so obviously one of the best novels of the year.”
Why? On the one hand it is a gripping saga, following the decline and fall of a white South African family over four decades. It is packed with incident – sex, drugs, shootings – and there is drama, discord and death. But there is also plenty of unexpected comedy to lighten the mood. It made me laugh.
On the other hand, through the lens of this one family, The Promise also deftly tells the story of South Africa and its troubled transition from apartheid state to multi-racial democracy. So it is rich with layers and yet it is compact, with fewer than 300 pages.
It is also technically superb. There is an invisible narrator, who acts like a film camera. So you move fluidly from one location to another, from one character’s point of view to another, sometimes within the same paragraph or page. At one point we fly into someone’s dreams. At another we dive into the feelings of a pack of hyenas and even a family dog.
Damon Galgut nearly died from cancer as a young child. In 2010 he told me it was the central, cataclysmic event of his life. Books provided comfort during his illness. When he finally recovered he was left with the overwhelming need to write. Now he has won one of the biggest prizes in publishing.
Short presentational grey line
The Promise begins in 1986 and revisits the family over the course of four funerals, each in a different decade and at a different point in the nation’s journey.
“What really appealed to me is how you could show in each little snapshot how the same cast of characters is changing as time goes by,” the author told BBC Radio 4’s Open Book earlier this year.
Galgut, 57, grew up in Pretoria and told BBC World Service’s The Cultural Frontline that the title also refers to the unfulfilled promise in South Africa after apartheid, the policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government.
“I think a great many of us had high expectations of the future,” Galgut said. “And I think also a great many of us feel that those hopes have been dashed. That little piece of land is only one wasted promise, really.”
The Promise was widely praised when it was published in the UK in June, with The Guardian calling it “stunning”, The Sunday Times describing it as “bleak but superbly narrated” and The Financial Times declaring it “a complex, ambitious, brilliant work”.
The other nominated books were:
Anuk Arudpragasam – A Passage North
Patricia Lockwood – No One Is Talking About This
Nadifa Mohamed – The Fortune Men
Richard Powers – Bewilderment
Maggie Shipstead – Great Circle
Last year’s Booker Prize was won by Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain. The Scottish author said the victory “changed everything for me”, with the novel shooting up best-seller lists as a result and now being adapted into a TV series.
TOP FIFTY SIX OF THE DAY
TOP 56 ALL TIME BOOKER WINNERS
1 2021 Damon Galgut The Promise
2 2020 Douglas Stuart Shuggie Bain
3 2019 Margaret Atwood The Testaments Science fiction,
4 2018 Anna Burns Milkman. Fiction.
5 2017 George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo. Historical/experimental novel.
6 2016 Paul Beatty The Sellout. Satirical novel.
7 2015 Marlon James The Brief History of Seven Killings. Historical novel.
8 2014 Richard Flanagan The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Historical novel.
9 2013 Eleanor Catton The Luminaries. Historical novel.
10 2012 Hilary Mantel Bring Up the Bodies. Historical novel.
11 2011 Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending. Novel.
12 2010 Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question. Comic novel.
13 2009 Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall. Historical novel.
14 2008 Aravind Adiga The White Tiger Fiction
15 2007 Anne Enright The Gathering Fiction
16 2006 Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss Fiction
17 2005 John Banville The Sea Fiction
18 2004 Alan Hollinghurst The Line of Beauty Historical novel
19 2003 DBC Pierre Vernon God Little Black comedy
20 2002 Yann Martel Life of Pi Fantasy and adventure novel
21 2001 Peter Carey True History of the Kelly Gang Historical novel
22 2000 Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin Historical novel
23 1999 J. M. Coetzee Disgrace Fiction
24 1998 Ian McEwan Amsterdam Fiction
25 1997 Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things Fiction
26 1996 Graham Swift Last Orders Fiction
27 1995 Pat Barker The Ghost Road War novel
28 1994 James Kelman How Late It Was, How Late Stream of consciousness
29 1993 Roddy Doyle Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha Fiction
30 1992 Michael Ondaatje The English Patient Historiographic metafiction
31 1992 Barry Unsworth Sacred Hunger Historical novel
32 1991 Ben Okri The Famished Road Magic realism
33 1990 A. S. Byatt Possession Historical novel
34 1989 Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day Historical novel
35 1988 Peter Carey Oscar and Lucinda Fiction
36 1987 Penelope Lively Moon Tiger Fiction
37 1986 Kingsley Amis The Old Devils Comic novel
38 1985 Keri Hulme The Bone People Mystery novel
39 1984 Anita Brookner Hotel du Lac Fiction
40 1983 J. M. Coetzee Life & Times of Michael K Fiction
41 1982 Thomas Keneally Schindler’s Ark Biographical novel
42 1981 Salman Rushdie Midnight’s Children Magical realism
43 1980 William Golding Rites of Passage Fiction
44 1979 Penelope Fitzgerald Offshore Fiction
45 1978 Iris Murdoch The Sea, the Sea Philosophical novel
46 1977 Paul Scott Staying On Fiction
47 1976 David Storey Saville Fiction
48 1975 Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Heat and Dust Historical novel
49 1974 Nadine Gordimer The Conservationist Fiction
50 1974 Stanley Middleton Holiday Fiction
51 1973 J. G. Farrell The Siege of Krishnapur. Fiction.
52 1972 John Berger G. Experimental novel.
53 1971 V. S. Naipaul In a Free State. Short story.
54 1970 Bernice Rubens The Elected Member. Fiction.
55 1970 J. G. Farrell Troubles. Fiction.
56 1969 P. H. Newby Something to Answer For. Fiction
 Shared prize.
 The first woman to win the Booker prize twice (2009, 2012).
 First man to win the Booker prize twice (1970, 1973).
 Lost Man Booker Prize (awarded in 2010).
 Between 2002 and June 2019 the Booker prizes were sponsored by the Man Group. Since June 2019 Crankstart, a charitable foundation of Sir Michael Moritz KBE and his wife, Harriet Heyman, is the new supporter of both the Booker Prize and the International Booker Prize. The Booker Prizes will not include the name of the sponsor.
REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
– Nicolas Chamfort
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
“My mother always used to say: The older you get, the better you get, unless you’re a banana.”
—Rose (Betty White), The Golden Girls.
Happiness is…reading a Booker Prize winner (Really/).
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
“Have you got anything to drink?”
“I meant something harder?”
Love is…what gets you glowing.
A time for Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart…A time for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle.
1605 Guy Fawkes, born here in York was arrested when around 30 barrels of gunpowder, camouflaged with coal, were discovered in the cellar under Parliament. Robert Catesby’s small band of Catholic zealots who planned to blow up James I and Parliament were only arrested after Fawkes revealed their names when tortured on the rack. Conspirators met at the Old Lion Inn, Dunchurch, Warwickshire and plaque on 5th November to await news of the destruction of Westminster.
1909 Woolworths opened its first British store, in Liverpool. Almost 100 years later, (at the end of the first week in January 2009) the last remaining stores closed ure) for the last time.
1912 The appointment of a British Board of Film Censors. They decided on only two classifications – ‘Universal’ and ‘Not Suitable for Children’.
1927 Britain’s first automatic traffic lights were installed at Princess Square road junction in Wolverhampton, in the West Midlands.
©2021 Phil M Robinson