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  • Published: 16 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784744076
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $37.00

The Promise

SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021




Masterful new fiction from twice Booker-shortlisted author Damon Galgut

***LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE***

Masterful new fiction from twice Booker-shortlisted author Damon Galgut

A taut and menacing novel that charts the crash and burn of an Afrikaans family, the Swarts. Punctuated by funerals that bring the ever-diminishing family together, each of the four parts opens with a death and a new decade.

The characterisations are razor sharp, the dialogue dramatic, the action gripping. As we traverse the decades, Damon interweaves the story of a disappointed nation from apartheid to Jacob Zuma.

  • Published: 16 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784744076
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $37.00

About the author

Damon Galgut

Damon Galgut was born in Pretoria in 1963. He wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season, when he was seventeen. His other books include Small Circle of Beings, The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs, The Quarry and The Good Doctor. The Good Doctor was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. In a Strange Room was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Damon Galgut lives in Cape Town.

Praise for The Promise

This tour-de-force unleashes a searing portrait of a damaged family and a troubled country in need of healing

Publisher's Weekly (Starred review)

Damon Galgut's The Promise is about an unfulfilled but promising life and about the repeatedly broken promises by a white family to a black household worker. With unostentatious virtuosity Galgut - one of the world's great writers - enters the minds of all his characters, rich or poor, white or black, male or female, even the thoughts of a homeless man beset by visions. The language has a Flaubertian clarity and the intimate knowledge of the family is matched by an authoritative understanding of South Africa's complex history. This is the most important book of the last ten years

Edmund White

The Promise satisfies in so many ways: a multi-layered family story set against the shifting destiny of South Africa itself since Mandela; its characters' stories interwoven in prose that is poignant and wryly amusing. The book's power and immediacy merge to create an outstanding novel of its time

Joan Bakewell

Galgut extends his extraordinary corpus with a rich story of family, history, and grief

Kirkus

If possible, The Promise packs yet more of a punch than Galgut's previous novels. Fuelled by sex and death, this is a South African Gotterdammerung charting a white family's inexorable decline from significance and power. Its indignation at its morally bankrupt central characters is leavened with languid comedy, as though Galgut had collaborated with Tennessee Williams. The effect is utterly compelling

Patrick Gale

Galgut understands the complexities of the human heart which he reveals with the finest delicacy. This is an emotionally powerful and thrilling novel that haunts one long after it has been laid down

Gabriel Byrne

The Promise recalls the great achievements of modernism in its imagistic brilliance, its caustic disenchantment, its relentless research into the human. For formal innovation and moral seriousness, Damon Galgut is very nearly without peer. He is an essential writer

Garth Greenwell

I was mesmerised by The Promise, Damon Galgut's novel of the decline and fall of a South African family, told over four decades and four funerals. These are characters dancing on the edge of ruin, living out their lives around a family farm in Pretoria, a place suffused with the threat and consequence of violence. Galgut's prose is intoxicating, managing the rare feat of being utterly liberated and fiercely controlled. A brilliant book

Anna Hope

Damon Galgut is a consummate and provocative writer whose books always dazzle and delight me. His new book, The Promise, brilliantly illuminates how both a small family and a large world endure - or don't endure. It is both tender and brutal, and Amor, its enigmatic heroine, is the most fascinating character I've encountered in recent fiction. I will remember her, and this beautifully devastating book, for a long time

Peter Cameron

The Promise is a gorgeous and pleasurable novel, with an imaginative heft to match Galgut's fellow South African writers Gordimer, Coetzee and Brink. It's richly evocative of the land and its people, and reports on a new South Africa without fake moralising; it made me laugh, too. Dreamlike yet so solidly well-made, The Promise has lived on inside my head, unsettling and troubling me

Tessa Hadley

The Promise is fully rooted in contemporary South Africa, but the novel's weather moves into the elemental while attending also to the daily, the detailed and the personal. The book is close to a folktale or the retelling of a myth about fate and loss, about three siblings and land, a promise made and broken. The story has an astonishing sense of depth, as though the characters were imagined over time, with slow tender care

Colm Tóibín

A surprising number of novelists are very good; few are extraordinary. Like his compatriot J.M. Coetzee, the South African writer Damon Galgut is of this rare company . . . To praise the novel in its particulars - for its seriousness; for its balance of formal freedom and elegance; for its humor, its precision, its human truth - seems inadequate and partial. Simply: you must read it. Like other remarkable novels, it is uniquely itself, and greater than the sum of its parts. The Promise evokes, when you reach the final page, a profound interior shift that is all but physical. This, as an experience of art, happens only rarely, and is to be prized

Claire Messud, Harpers US

A literary masterpiece of heart, soul and incorrupt wisdom. Galgut addresses conflict and reparation - both political and personal - with extraordinary skill, truthfulness and sensitivity.

Sarah Hall

So acute, indeed, are Mr. Galgut's descriptions - of a character's inner life, a body's fragility, a family's shared wounds, a country's accumulated scars - that they seem like our perceptions, not his . . . Time and again in Mr. Galgut's fiction, South Africa materializes, vast, astonishing, resonant. And on this vastness, he stages intimate dramas that have the force of ancient myth

Anna Mundow, Wall Street Journal

Remarkable . . . The Promise suggests that the demands of history and the answering cry of the novel can still powerfully converge . . . the novel's beautifully peculiar narration aerates and complicates this fatal family fable, and turns plot into deep meditation . . . Galgut is wonderfully, Woolfianly adept at moving quickly between characters' thoughts

James Wood, New Yorker

Superbly narrated, Galgut's book combines state-of-the-nation novel . . . with something like allegory or even Christian parable

Phil Baker, Sunday Times

Stunning . . . Galgut deploys every trick in the book; he's heart-swellingly attentive to emotional complexity . . . Galgut has twice been shortlisted [for the Booker prize] . . . don't be surprised if Galgut goes one better this year

Anthony Cummins, Observer

A strange, skilful, spellbinding eighth novel . . . Galgut explores grief, despair and love in a way that feels ageless . . . By the end of this enormously enjoyable novel, our laughter has become complicity and farce become force

David Isaacs, Literary Review

The Promise functions as a spare but thoroughly satisfying parable, the decline of the Swarts into moral degeneracy and death tracing the forsaken promises of the post-apartheid era, from early hope to the contemporary realities of corruption and racial enmity . . . [a] magisterial, heart-stopping novel

Nat Segnit, Times Literary Supplement

Galgut seems to deliver effortlessly...there's nothing he can't do... [his] style is quiet but the book feels bursting with life because of all the of all the off-page, between-times details he hints at... This is so obviously one of the best novels of the year... a book that answers the question "what is a novel for?" With a simple: "This!"

John Self, The Times

A complex, ambitious and brilliant work - one that provides Galgut's fullest exploration yet of the poisonous legacy of apartheid . . . Galgut describes his characters with rare assurance and skill, conjuring them to life in a narrative voice that moves restlessly from character to character . . . Rarely have I had such a strong sense, while reading a novel, that I myself was there, in the room with the characters

William Skidelsky, Financial Times

The Promise by Damon Galgut is a masterpiece - one of the best books I have read in the past decade and definitely my book of the year so far. Galgut is a master of the form. His free-flowing prose moves effortlessly from inside one character's head to another and displays a wealth of compassion and insight from multiple perspectives. This novel is a moving, brilliantly-told family epic with political resonance which also manages in parts to be darkly comic. Phenomenally good

Elizabeth Day

Galgut is a terrifically agile and consistently interesting novelist, certain up there with Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee as a chronicler of his nation's anguished complexity

Jon Day, Guardian, *Book of the Week*

[A] magnificent new novel. Galgut sweeps his ruthlessly forensic gaze over each of the protagonists...as well as the country at large

Laura Battle, Financial Times, *Summer Reads of 2021*

Labelled a masterpiece and one of the best novels of the year within a week of publication... Galgut is on his finest form as he explores grief, despair and love in his inimitable style. Read this book if nothing else this year.

A Little Bird, *Summer Reads of 2021*

[A] gripping, profound tale... a damning commentary on South Africa's many broken promises

Economist

Ingenious... The most distinctive element of the novel, and its greatest pleasure, is the effortless way Galgut flows from mind to mind and body to body, whether male, female, pubertal, menopausal, maturing, ageing or dying. It's almost uncanny

Suzi Feay, Spectator

Surrender to the music of Galgut's prose, however, and the rewards are considerable

Max Liu

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