Damon Galgut, a white South African playwright and novelist, has won the 2021 Booker Prize for his novel The Promise, a satirical portrait of a white family living in Pretoria in post-apartheid South Africa. The story is a very personal one for Galgut, who grew up in Pretoria and witnessed late apartheid and its demise.
The novel follows the decline of four generations of the Swart family over 40 years and starts at the end of apartheid. It focuses on the pledge made by a dying family member to bequeath the family’s property to their black domestic worker. This promise goes ignored by future generations of the family. And it becomes TRhe nove
As an academic who has focused on South African society and history, I first came across a photo of Galgut when I was researching the End Conscription Campaign – a white anti-apartheid movement formed in 1983 that aimed to abolish compulsory military service.
Like all white men at the time, Galgut was legally obliged to serve for two years in the South African army enforcing apartheid rule. Galgut was featured as “National Serviceman of the Month” in a 1983 edition of the apartheid military’s propaganda magazine, Paratus. This is a broader subject he has explored in his 1991 novel, The Beautiful Screaming of…