Damon Galgut: Ghosts of Apartheid

It was a privilege to welcome Damon Galgut back to the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2021 to discuss his Booker Prize-winning book with the Guardian's associate editor for culture Claire Armitstead. Like his other novels, The Promise is 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. 

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