South African author Damon Galgut won the Booker Prize, a prestigious British literary prize, on Wednesday 3 November for The Promise, a book about the passing of time for a white farming family in post-apartheid South Africa.
The president of the jury, the historian Maya Jasanoff, underlined the“Originality [et la] incredible fluidity of tone “ of the work, “A dense book, with historical and metaphorical significance”.
“I am deeply, humbly grateful”said the 57-year-old winner, a third-time Booker Prize finalist. Obviously moved, he greeted a “Great year for African writing”, marked by the Nobel Prize for Literature of Abdulrazak Gurnah, Briton born in Zanzibar, and the presentation of the 2021 Goncourt Prize to Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. “It’s a process that will continue”, and “People will take African writing a little more seriously “, Warned Damon Galgut at a press conference, “There is a lot of great writing coming from us.”
A story about the passage of time
Receiving the award, Damon Galgut, who was among the favorites among the six finalists, stressed that he wanted to accept it for “All the stories that have been told and those that have not been”, writers, recognized or not, “Of this remarkable continent”.
Covering the period from the end of apartheid until the presidency of Jacob Zuma, his book, The Promise, traces, over a series of funerals, the gradual dislocation of a white family in Pretoria as the country emerges towards democracy.
In a video released before the announcement of the result, the author explained that he wanted to show in this book “The passage of time and what he does to the family, what he does to the country’s politics and what he does to notions of justice”. If a message was to be remembered, “It would be that mortality is what underlies all of our lives”, “we all age, and everything changes as time goes by”.
A reward of 55,000 euros
Broadcast on the BBC, the ceremony brought together all the finalists in person – after video conference appearances in the previous edition, due to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The six books selected for the final were selected by the five jurors from 158 novels published in the United Kingdom or Ireland between the 1is October 2020 and September 30, 2021. This included the American Patricia Lockwood, in the running for No One Is Talking About This (which recounts a tragedy caused by “Absurdity” social networks), as well as two of his compatriots: Richard Powers (Bewilderment, in which an astrobiologist escapes to fantastic worlds as he helps his troubled son) and Maggie Shipstead (Great Circle, which takes readers along the intertwined journeys of an aviator of the XXe century and a Hollywood star of the XXIe century). The other finalists were Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasam, 33, with A Passage North, which evokes traumas and memories of the civil war in Sri Lanka, and the British-Somali Nadifa Mohamed, 40, for The Fortune Men, which is based on the true story of a Somali man wrongfully convicted and executed for the murder of a woman in Cardiff harbor, Wales in 1952.
Last year, the prize was awarded to the Scotsman Douglas Stuart for his first novel, Shuggie Bath, which takes place in a working-class family in Glasgow, plagued by alcoholism and poverty in the 1980s.
Launched in 1969, the Booker Prize rewards the author of the “Best novel written in English”. The winner wins a prize of 50,000 pounds (approximately 55,000 euros) and the assurance of international fame.
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The Booker Prize rewards South African author Damon Galgut