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In a Strange Room Hardcover – 1 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; 1st edition (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848873220
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848873223
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.2 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 397,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Superb... With this new book Galgut has struck out in a new direction and taken his writing to a whole other level. It is a quite astonishing work. --William Skidelsky, Observer

Acute, beautiful, unsettling. I have rarely felt so moved whilst reading. --Sarah Hall, The Times

'One of the most beautiful and unsettling books I've ever read. I can't remember a more troubling and intense study of rootlessness and loneliness; Galgut is a writer of great, almost frightening, depth. --Tash Aw

Acute, beautiful, unsettling. I have rarely felt so moved whilst reading. --Sarah Hall, The Times

'One of the most beautiful and unsettling books I've ever read. I can't remember a more troubling and intense study of rootlessness and loneliness; Galgut is a writer of great, almost frightening, depth. --Tash Aw

From the Publisher

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2010

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Henry Turner on 14 Jan 2011
Format: Hardcover
It's probably best that you don't expect this novel to behave like most novels: it doesn't. Had I not been told that I was reading a novel, I would probably have thought it was a memoir. The novel comprises three stories, each one a journey - the emotional journey is far more important than the physical - that the protagonist (a writer also named Damon) takes. His travels take him to Greece, across various African counties, to Switzerland and south India. Here he meets and travels with a range of people who deeply affect both him and you as the reader. In fact, I found it to be one of the most emotional novels that I have read for a long time.

If you have ever travelled under your own stream, alone or off the beaten track, I am sure you'll find Damon's emotions resonant. Galgut's language is simple and hugely compelling. Despite his refusal to engage with conventional punctuation and a shifting - sometimes apparently arbitrary - use of 'I' and 'he', the book is deceptively easy to read. Often in just a handful of words Galgut manages to conjure landscapes and emotions that would take other writers paragraphs to achieve. It's one of those novels that helps you to form incredibly vivid pictures in your head. Although (with one key exception) the novel is rarely about major incidents, it plays like a page-turner. I read the book in 2 sittings, thrown by how compelling I found it. It is a book that confounded my expectations, and was the best present I was given last Christmas.
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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful By TomCat on 7 Sep 2010
Format: Hardcover
I readily admit that my knowledge of "travel writing" begins and ends with Bill Bryson. So when I learned that 'In A Strange Room' is a road novel grounded in the facts of an actual journey across Africa and India, my interested piqued - maybe it would offer me an easy way into the alien landscapes of travel writing via the comfortingly familiar scenery of narrative fiction. Oh so naive me. Far from the light-hearted reading I had anticipated, In A Strange Room is a challenging, often abstract novel; an experiment in form that defies genre and isn't troubled by such mitigating concepts as `meaning' or `realism'. Its simple, sparse prose hides beneath it a veritable smorgasbord of themes, ideas and questions; never has the description `still waters run deep' rung more true.

'In A Strange Room' comprises three short stories (all previously published in The Paris Review), each of which follows a journey made by Damon, an itinerant South African who simultaneously is and isn't Damon Galgut the author. The book doesn't so much blur the boundaries of autobiography and fiction as it does tie them into an indistinguishable knot, hand the knot to the reader and say, with a smug but sad demeanour, `good luck untying that one'. There's a tension between memory and invention that is never resolved; what did happen and what could have happened is the dichotomy that defines this book, and the key relationship is between the writer and his protagonist alter-ego. I suppose it's fitting, given this duality, that my copy was accidentally double-bound with two dust jackets, instead of one.

It's got an odd lay-out for a novel: no scene is longer than a single paragraph, and there are several of these on every page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Dragonfly on 20 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
I travel and lot and long distance walking I love, so there was something about this book which I found myself completely associating with : the conversations you have with yourself and the claustrophobic and at times introverted viewpoint you start seeing your fellow travellers and places you come across from. He writes in the third person, allowing him to distance himself from the situations and pass comment on how he saw it. When you spend a lot of time on your own on the hills, you start seeing the moving landscape you traverse and the people you meet almost like a film. This book conjures this perfectly!
He changes to first person, I think, just the once, in the third story for two paragraphs, which perfectly relays the intensity of panic and urgency he feels as he tries to cope with a particular situation.
The text is peppered with at times almost poetic description: "..up in to the shattered windscreen of the sky" and some astute observation: "without love nothing has value"; "too much travelling and placelessness have put him outside of everything", "whatever you don't remember, never happened".
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Sep 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a quietly bleak, haunting journey, which snags and ellipses its themes. The book is a spider's web, easily trapping the reader by its simple, pared back prose. Enter into its surroundings, and you won't get out easily. The central character in this book by the South African author Damon Galgut is a restlessly travelling South African author called Damon. Presumably, he both is and isn't the author, as we are made aware the travelling Damon is not the one who is now writing the book. Memory and the imposed patterns of reflection on the past have made a story of events. Its possible/probable that the 'real' Damon writer who wrote this book has shaped the written story that the 'I' of the book has shaped about his central character's journey.

Confused? This is part of the book's charm - it lures you onwards, leaving you, like 'Damon' unable to rest. You have to keep on seeking, trying to get to the centre.

In the first of the 3 long journeying events, Damon walks widening ellipses across the landscape of Lesotho, with an enigmatic and beautiful German doppelganger of sorts. In the second story, he is again journeying with a group of strangers, and another beautiful young man haunts him. 'Damon' yearns to connect (as he did with the German, Reiner, at times), but his own flaw is that though on one level he yearns for connection, and tires of his restlessness, he cannot take the plunge into intimacy. In the third journey, in India, his companion is a female friend teetering and plunging into madness. In friendship he is capable of deep tenderness and commitment, deep feeling, in fact overwhelmed by feeling, in a way that he is unable to give himself up to with the potential lovers.

What are these restless journeys, this inability to be? What is Damon ever seeking?
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