The Promise by Damon Galgut
‘The Promise’ by South African writer Damon Galgut was the deserving winner of this year’s Booker Prize.
It’s the story of a white South African family, set in the last years if apartheid and the emergence of the new South African state. The Swarts are an African family. Rachel, the mother, is dying and she asks her husband to give ownership of the house and the land to Salome, the black servant who has loyally served the family for many years, a promise that remains unfulfilled for decades. We follow the fortunes and decline of the family through the lives of their children, Astrid, Anton & Amor in the ensuing years.
The story is structured around four funerals & over four decades. The focus shifts from one sibling to the other, and we see how the story unfolds through their eyes, set against the backdrop of the new emerging country trying to find it’s identity.
The promise is eventually made good decades later. South Africa is a country where the old system of corruption, privilege & discrimination is replaced by a newer version of the same – the promise of a better, more equal, inclusive society proves difficult to achieve.
A powerful novel of racism, indifference and human facilities wonderfully observed.