For the third time in a row, two Africans have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. They are South Africa’s Damon Galgut for his novel The Promise, about an inter-generational family saga, and the Somali-British writer Nadifa Mohamed’s historical novel The Fortune Men, about a man wrongly convicted for murder in 1950s Cardiff area. They are listed alongside the writers Anuk Arudpragasam for A Passage North, Patricia Lockwood for No One is Talking About This, Richard Powers for Bewilderment, and Maggie Shipstead for The Great Circle. Read an excerpt of Galgut’s novel here.
Last year’s Booker shortlist included the writers Tsitsi Dangaremgba and Maaza Mengiste for This Mournable Body and The Shadow King respectively in a historic achievement. The year before that, the Nigerians Chigozie Obioma and Bernardine Evaristo were both shortlisted with the latter going on to win.
Like Mengiste last year, Nadifa Mohamed is the first British-Somali writer to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, in her debut outing. Galgut, on the other hand, is on the list for the third time having been shortlisted in 2003 for The Good Doctor and again in 2010 for In a Strange Room.
The judging panel for the 2021 Prize was chaired by Maya Jasanoff and included Horatia Harrod, Chigozie Obioma, Rowan Williams, and Natascha McElhone.
Jasanoff said the 2021 shortlist was gleaned from an impressive variety of submissions and “delivers as wide a range of original stories as it does style.” In his remarks on Galgut’s novel, Obioma says the book is “a testament to the flourishing of the novel in the 21st century.” Maya Jassanof describes The Fortune Men as “grippingly-paced and full of complex, richly-drawn characters, the novel combines pointed social observation with a deeply empathetic sensibility.
The 2021 winner will be announced on Wednesday 3 November in an award ceremony held in partnership with the BBC at Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre. It will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, BBC iPlayer, and BBC News Channel.
Congratulations to Damon Galgut and Nadifa Mohamed!