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Damon Galgut's The Promise Wins The 2021 Booker Prize For Fiction

Third time lucky, they say, but is's always easier to say than to actually catch this luck. However this week the South African writer Damon Galgut proved the saying to be an absolute bull's eye when on November 3, at the official ceremony he heard his name being announced as the winner of the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction.

He has already been shortlisted in 2003 for The Good Doctor and in 2010 for In A Strange Room, but The Promise, the only novel Damon Galgut wrote in the past seven years (though it is his ninth), became the one to bring him the Booker Prize winner's title.

The Promise, set in South Africa during the country’s transition out of apartheid, explores the interconnected relationships between the members of a diminishing white family through the sequential lens of four funerals. Galgut told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row during his Booker Book Club interview last week that the idea for the novel’s structure came to him over a semi-drunken afternoon during which a friend described a series of funerals.

"It occurred to me that it would be a novel and interesting way of approaching a family saga. If the only thing you had was a small window that opened on to these four funerals and you didn’t get the full trajectory of the family story, as a reader you’d have to fill in those gaps yourself. I’m fascinated as a writer by the edge of the map; by things that are not said", Damon Galgut explained.

Maya Jasanoff, the chair of the 2021 Booker Prize judges, has praised the novel by stating: "Galgut’s searching examination of family, place, and the dysfunctions that connect them reminded us of William Faulkner. His deft inhabiting of different characters’ consciousnesses evokes Virginia Woolf. All this he does with a sensibility, artistry, and scope that are entirely his own. As a spectacular demonstration of how the novel can make us see and think afresh, The Promise delivers. This is a book about legacies, those we inherit and those we leave, and in awarding it this year’s Booker Prize we hope it will resonate with readers in decades to come."

Damon Galgut's debut novel was published when he was just seventeen. When asked why he became a writer, he told the Guardian he had lymphoma as a child, during which time he "learned to associate books and stories with a certain kind of attention and comfort". Grown in Pretoria, he now lives in Cape Town and is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Last year the Booker Prize was won by Douglas Stuart's debut novel Shuggie Bain. It was also chosen as the "Book of the Year" by The Times and the Daily Telegraph and won both "Debut of the Year" and "Book of the Year" at the 2021 British Book Awards.

First awarded in 1969, The Booker Prize is recognized as the leading prize for literary fiction written in English. The list of former winners features many of the literary giants of the last five decades: from Iris Murdoch to Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul to Hilary Mantel.

Source: The 2021 Booker Prize press release


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