Damon Galgut has won the Booker prize for his portrait of a white South African family navigating the end of apartheid. The judges praised The Promise as “a spectacular demonstration of how the novel can make us see and think afresh”, and compared it to the work of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.
This is the first time Galgut will be walking away with the £50,000 prize, having been shortlisted twice before. The Promise is his ninth novel, and his first in seven years. He becomes the third South African to win then prestigious fiction prize, after JM Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer.
Through the lens of four sequential funerals, each taking place in a different decade, The Promise follows the Swarts, a white South African family who live on a farm outside Pretoria. The promise of the title is one the Swarts make – and fail to keep over the years – to give a home and land to the black woman who worked for them her whole life.
The novel is, according to the Booker judges, “a strong, unambiguous commentary on the history of South Africa and of humanity itself that can best be summed up in the question: does true justice exist in this world?”
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