Damon Galgut: Ghosts of Apartheid
South African novelist Damon Galgut has already had two novels shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Could The Promise go a step further? That’s certainly what the critics are suggesting in their glowing reviews of this latest offering. Like his other novels, it’s set amid the seismic rumbles of a changing South Africa in the last years of its morally bankrupt apartheid era.
The Promise follows the (mis)fortunes of a white family, the Swarts, whose complacency about the changing South African society is undermined by a long-delayed family promise that their servant, Salome, will be given ownership of the annexe she lives in on their property. That unkept vow stands for much that’s wrong with South African society at the time – not least because it’s a promise that wouldn’t have been easy to uphold in law.
This is a story of sibling resentments, fecklessness and hypocrisy – but Galgut leavens it with satire and irony. It’s a privilege to welcome him back to the Book Festival to discuss his new book.