Damon Galgut with The Promise

The 2021 Booker Prize

And the winner is... Damon Galgut wins the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction with The Promise

It’s third time lucky for Damon Galgut as, after being shortlisted in 2003 and 2010, he finally wins the Booker Prize with The Promise.

The announcement was made by Maya Jasanoff, chair of the 2021 judges, in a ceremony that was broadcast live to a global audience of millions by the BBC.

The Promise is set in South Africa during the country’s transition out of apartheid, and explores the interconnected relationships between the members of a diminishing white family through the sequential lens of four funerals.

The Promise is Galgut’s ninth novel and first in seven years; his debut was published when he was just seventeen.

It's changed my life and please know that I am really, profoundly, humbly grateful for this

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 2021 winner

The 2021 winner, The Promise by Damon Galgut — hailed by the Financial Times as ‘a complex, ambitious, brilliant work’ — was celebrated internationally by booksellers, the media and readers alike.

The Promise details the interconnected relationships between the members of a diminishing white South African family through the sequential lens of four funerals, with The Guardian describing Galgut as ‘a vital, nuanced chronicler of the deep hurts of South Africa, past and present’ when reflecting on his win.

The morning after the announcement, the book was number one on Amazon’s bestseller chart. Two weeks after the win, Chatto & Windus announced that it had reprinted 153,000 copies of The Promise, having sold 23,878 copies in hardback, 14,622 of which sold in the two weeks following the news, a 1,925% jump in volume compared with the two weeks before.

Damon Galgut on stage at the 2021 Booker Prize Awards Ceremony
Damon Galgut
Published by
Chatto & Windus
The Promise won the Booker Prize in 2021. Brutal emotional truths hit home in Damon Galgut’s deft, powerful story of a diminished family and a troubled land.

The Shortlist

A Passage North
The Promise
Prize winner
No One Is Talking About This
The Fortune Men
Great Circle

The Longlist

The 2021 judges

With so many ambitious and intelligent books before us, the judges engaged in rich discussions not only about the qualities of any given title, but often about the purpose of fiction itself. We are pleased to present a shortlist that delivers as wide a range of original stories as it does voices and styles.

Gaby Wood, director of the Booker Prize Foundation

‘This year, over the course of nine largely solitary months, five strangers of disparate backgrounds showed each other what they saw in stories—what dazzled them or challenged them, what touched them or left them unmoved. In the process they showed something of themselves, and came to trust each other as a result.

‘They also proved that the best literature is elastic: both because so many different things can be seen in it, and because—as one of the judges said—the best of fiction can make you feel as though your mind, or heart, are a little bit larger for having read it. 

‘In congratulating the shortlistees, it’s worth remembering how true this remains of the 2021 longlist, all of which will continue to be celebrated at thebookerprizes.com, the new home of the prizes and the half-century-old Booker Library.’

Gaby Wood