Damon Galgut’s novel The Promise was announced the winner of the Booker Prize 2021 in a ceremony in London, UK on Thursday, November 3, 2021.
The Booker Prize for Fiction, worth £50,000, is a literary prize awarded annually for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. Since it started in 1969, it has been won by four writers of African descent, Nadine Gordimer (1974), Ben Okri (1991), J. M. Coetzee (1999), and Bernardine Evaristo (2019). Some of those who have been shortlisted are Chinua Achebe (1987), Abdulrazak Gumah (1994), Ahdaf Soueif (1999), Achmat Dangor (2004), Marie NDiaye (2013), Chigozie Obioma (2015 and 2019) as well as Tsitsi Dangarembga, Maaza Mengiste, and Brandon Taylor (2020).
The 2021 judging panel is chaired by historian Maya Jasanoff alongside writer and editor Horatia Harrod; actor Natascha McElhone; twice Booker-shortlisted novelist and professor Chigozie Obioma; and writer and former Archbishop Rowan Williams. They announced the longlist for the award on July 27 before unveiling the shortlist on September 14.
The winner of the award was declared at a ceremony held at Broadcasting House in London, England, hosted by the BBC’s Samira Ahmed. The announcement was made by Booker Prize judging chair Maya Jasanoff who described the judging process this year as ‘incredibly difficult’.
“We discussed these books at length and every single one of these books had passionate support from us and we loved what they were doing,” she said.
We arrived at a decision after a lot of discussion and arrived at a consensus around a book that is a real master of form and pushes the form in new ways, that has an incredible originality and fluidity of voice, and a book that’s really dense with historical and metaphorical significance.’
The award was given to Damon Galgut’s The Promise who received it from the winner of the award in the previous year Douglas Stuart.
Damon Galgut said, “It’s taken a long while to get here, and now that I have I kind of feel that I shouldn’t be here. This could just have easily have gone to any of the other amazing, talented people on this list, and a few others who aren’t.”
“But seeing as the good fortune has fallen to me, let me say this has been a great year for African writing, and I’d like to accept this on behalf of all the stories told and untold, the writers heard and unheard, from the remarkable continent that I’m part of. Please keep listening to us: there’s a lot more to come,” he added.