The Good Author

September 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Award Nominated, Great for Book Clubs, Literary Fiction | 1 Comment

Damon Galgut ‘In A Strange Room’ Atlantic Books April 2010

‘In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were.’ The title of this novel and quotation are Damon Gal guts nod to William Faulkner. This is a greatly admirable story for its literary skill and for the story’s ability to drive your thoughts while you read it.

Its’ literary skills alone address the ideas of memory, fiction, travel and self identity. The novel is broken down into three parts called The Follower, The Lover and The Guardian which interestingly have been published as separate stories already in the Paris Review. The lead character is a young man travelling who experiences many profound encounters with fellow travellers on the road affecting him until he returns home a changed man. In The Follower he meets Reiner with whom he travels and hikes across Greece. In The Lover a relationship flourishes in Africa but is neither physically nor emotionally consummated and in The Guardian Damon travels through India with a mentally ill friend under very difficult circumstances.

This novel is brimming with intensity, ideas of home and travel and one man’s relationship with his own peace of mind and at times the consequences of reaching the limits of this peace. I can liken it to a very interesting person articulately expressing the effects other people are having on them, the constraints of lust and love in their life along with their values of home and travelling. It uses the first person slipping into the third person narrative naturally which separates this from a memoir into a work of fiction, exemplifying the idea that memory is no more than fiction.

I think Damon Galgut is a very interesting author, I think he expresses human encounters very acutely and I think he is distinguished because of his command of literary skill.  This is a compelling read and has earned a well deserved place on the short list for the Booker Prize. This novel can’t be put into a box but I would exalt it for Galgut’s writing style. It is an intense read that says so much so simply and it has inspired me to re-read Galgut’s earlier novel ‘The Good Doctor’ (Atlantic books June 2004) I highly recommend it.

Haiku; Memoir or fiction, how to tell the difference? through writing technique.

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  1. Yes, I too have read The Good Doctor and it was a book I very much have liked. This one I will read too.

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