3.2 Promises Unkept: Damon Galgut with Andrew van der Vlies (CH)


Guest host Chris Holmes sits down with Booker Prize winning novelist Damon Galgut and Andrew van der Vlies, distinguished scholar of South African literature and global modernisms at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Andrew and Damon tunnel down into the structures of Damon’s newest novel, The Promise to locate the ways in which a generational family story reflects broadly on South Africa’s present moment. The two discuss how lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic invoke for some the limitations on movement during the Apartheid era in South Africa. The Promise is a departure from Damon’s previous two novels, which were peripatetic in their global movement and range.  Damon describes the ways in which this novel operates cinematically, as four flashes of a family’s long history, with the disembodied narrator being the one on the move. Damon provocatively divides novels into two traditions: those that provide consolation, and those that can provide true insight on the world but must do so with a cold distance. While he does not call The Promise an allegory, Damon admits to the fun that he has with inside jokes that play with allegorical connections, as long as the reader is in on the joke. Damon directly takes on his choice to leave a pregnant absence in the narrative’s insight into his black characters “sitting at the very heart of the book.

Mentioned in this Episode:

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Audio: Promises Unkept: Damon Galgut with Andrew van der Vlies

Transcript 3.2 Promises Unkept

3.6 Why are You in Bed? Why are You Drinking? Colm Tóibín and Joseph Rezek in Conversation Novel Dialogue

Colm Tóibín, the new laureate for Irish fiction, talks to Joseph Rezek of Boston University, and guest host Tara K. Menon of Harvard. The conversation begins with Colm’s latest novel The Magician, about the life of Thomas Mann, and whether we can or should think of novelists as magicians and then moves swiftly from one big question to the next. What are the limitations of the novel as a genre? Would Colm ever be interested in a writing a novel about an openly gay novelist? Why and how does death figure in Colm’s fiction? Each of Colm’s revealing, often deeply personal answers illuminates how both novels and novelists work. As Thomas Mann wrote of the “grubby business” of writing novels, Colm reminds us of the “day to day dullness of novel writing.” Insight and inspiration only arrive, he warns, after long, hard days of work. Mentioned in this episode: Robinson Crusoe (1719), Daniel Defoe Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen The Portrait of a Lady (1881), Henry James The Wings of the Dove(1902), Henry James The Ambassadors (1903), Henry James The Golden Bowl(1904), Henry James The Blackwater Lightship(1999), Colm Tóibín The Master (2004), Colm Tóibín Brooklyn(2009), Colm Tóibín The Testament of Mary(2012), Colm Tóibín Nora Webster(2015), Colm Tóibín The Magician(2021), Colm Tóibín Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. Email: aarthi.vadde@duke.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  1. 3.6 Why are You in Bed? Why are You Drinking? Colm Tóibín and Joseph Rezek in Conversation
  2. 3.5 The Romance of Recovery: Ben Bateman talks to Shola von Reinhold (AV)
  3. 3.4 The Work of Inhabiting a Role: Charles Yu speaks to Chris Fan (JP)
  4. 3.3 In the Editing Room with Ruth Ozeki and Rebecca Evans (EH)
  5. 3.2 Promises Unkept: Damon Galgut with Andrew van der Vlies

Image credit: Creative Commons

Published by plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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