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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't outrun your past
The Impostor is Damon Galgut's fifth novel and his second obvious Booker contender, after The Good Doctor (2003). Like its predecessor, The Impostor is a dark, gripping, not-quite-real parable of the South African Karoo. But, for my money, it surpasses The Good Doctor emphatically.

Adam Napier is a down-and-out, a redundant office worker who moves to the...
Published on 19 July 2008 by Jonathan Birch

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3.0 out of 5 stars Talented writing, plot wanting
In the interests of positive discrimination, Adam loses his job to the young black intern he has trained. I was looking forward to a South African writer's take on the reality of the curdled idealism of life in the post-apartheid system. Certainly, there are telling observations of a corrupt policeman, a beautiful young black woman now able to make her fortune as a white...
Published on 16 May 2013 by Antenna


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't outrun your past, 19 July 2008
By 
Jonathan Birch (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Impostor (Hardcover)
The Impostor is Damon Galgut's fifth novel and his second obvious Booker contender, after The Good Doctor (2003). Like its predecessor, The Impostor is a dark, gripping, not-quite-real parable of the South African Karoo. But, for my money, it surpasses The Good Doctor emphatically.

Adam Napier is a down-and-out, a redundant office worker who moves to the country in the hope of writing poetry. But his quiet life is quickly turned upside-down by a chance meeting with Canning, a local landowner. Canning takes Adam under his wing, purporting to be his long-lost school friend - but Adam has no memory of him. Galgut struggles to keep this Father Ted plotline within the bounds of plausibility but (I think) succeeds. Canning invites Adam to his enormous game park (a kind of Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs), where (it soon transpires) shady business deals are in the offing.

The world of The Impostor is a world in which everyone (including Adam) is working towards the obliteration of history. Every character - the whole town, it seems - has a mysterious past they would like to forget. Canning even hopes to obliterate the landscape of his game park: it reminds him too much of his hated father. But, through a series of clever plot twists, Galgut hammers home a simple message: the past will come back to haunt you. What goes around comes around. South Africa as a nation may want to forget the past, but it's not that easy. At the book's dramatic finale, Adam faces a crossroads and a clear choice: will he risk his own life to protect someone else, despite their past crimes? Can a person ever have a right to a fresh start? Such questions are timely and important.

Galgut's writing is strikingly minimal: description & dialogue & no frills. He'd easily bag the John Smith's Award for No Nonsense Prose. He gets away with it because, with only a few broad brush strokes, he paints a remarkably vivid supporting cast. Everyone who reads The Good Doctor remembers the Brigadier. The Impostor is packed with similarly memorable figures: Canning, whose inadequacies are hidden behind a cocky facade; Baby, Canning's scheming wife, smothered in bright makeup like a doll; the Mayor, whose hyperactivity hides his corruptibility; and Blom, Adam's paranoid neighbour, who communicates his mental anguish through metalwork sculptures. It's a shame Adam himself is bland by comparison.

Galgut now stands at a similar point in his career to that at which J.M. Coetzee stood when he wrote Life & Times of Michael K (1983). Galgut deserves similar acclaim, and I hope his career follows the same stratospheric trajectory as that of the Nobel prizewinner to whom his style is so clearly indebted.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chorus of Impostors, 28 Oct. 2008
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This review is from: The Impostor (Hardcover)
This is a beautifully written, bleak and unsettling book. As I got lured into its heart, I realised that far from 'The Impostor' being singular, almost the entire cast of characters were portraying deception, hiding behind masks, and pretending to be other than they were, in some way.

This novel, set in South Africa post apartheid, looks at the still colonial nature of society as pitilessly as the hot sun in that landscape, illuminating with a harsh light and casting deep shadows. As another reviewer has noted, there is something Kafka-esque, in the sense of shadowy, never really evident state machinations taking place and with the little individuals like ants, puny and helpless.

The book charts brilliantly the moral decline of the central character, and also shows how events in anyone's life, which may be utterly insignificant to one, can almost set the wheels of fate implacably in motion for another - the final revelation of the source of the two central character's friendship, of enormous significance to Canning, an unremembered, unremarkable moment for Adam
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Impostor, 28 Dec. 2010
This review is from: The Impostor (Paperback)
A very interesting piece. Easy to read but very compelling. An air of mystery increased by an incompleteness in description and conversation. Simple enough in the end but a very fresh psychological novel, riven through with a streak of irony. Written in excellent English, too.
Deserves a prize for originality in writing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top lit from South Africa, 10 April 2010
By 
D. J. H. Thorn "davethorn13" (Hull, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impostor (Paperback)
I bought this having enjoyed Galgut'sThe Good Doctor a couple of years ago, and it confirmed my first impression of his writing. His style is simple, but fluid and enticing. He leaves a trail of intrigue without resorting to sensationalism. Contrast this with Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing and Coetzee, who are more renowned but leave me cold (although Lessing's 'The Grass Is Singing' is an exception). The hero (or anti-hero), Adam, is easy to relate to, a quiet man who was the whipping boy at school, while the mysterious Canning, who draws him into an unsavoury world, is the catalyst for Adam's development. The novel suggests what we suspect about Galgut's country: that in the wake of the abolition of apartheid, an unacceptable system has been replaced by one which is only superficially acceptable. Corruption, sadly, is a global phenomenon. A superb book, nevertheless.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting story, 4 Feb. 2012
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Impostor (Paperback)
Adam Napier is a white man in his mid-forties in post-apartheid South Africa. He had been replaced in his job in Johannesburg by a young black man. The part of town in which he had lived had deteriorated badly: he could neither sell or rent out his house to pay his debts, and the bank took his house and most of his possessions. He didn't want to work for his younger brother Gavin, a property tycoon whose prosperity was based on what Adam considered unethical practices; instead he took up Gavin's offer of a derelict house Gavin owned just outside a tiny dorp on the arid Karoo eight hours drive out of Johannesburg. There is just one other house next to his, inhabited by a mysterious man he thinks of as the Blue Man on account of the blue overalls he always wears. On the strength of a volume of lyrical poetry about the grassy bushveldt he had had published twenty years earlier, Adam thought he would write poetry about the wide open spaces. But inspiration would not come. Loneliness, depression and inertia set in.

Then, in a parking lot, he is accosted by Kenneth Canning, an old fellow pupil who remembers him warmly, but whom Adam does not remember at all, though he is too embarrassed to say so. He now becomes involved with Canning's life and that of his mysterious black wife, in a bizarre setting that could not be more different from where Adam has just come from. Adam accepts the friendship and hospitality offered by the wealthy but seedy and rather pathetic Canning; he loves the setting, is fascinated by Canning's wife, and spends every weekend there. It liberates his poetic imagination.

Then Canning tells him of plans which Adam regards as a betrayal; and soon Adam is pulled into his own betrayal. The plot thickens into complexities; the sense of danger grows and envelops them all. And then it is a question of "sauve qui peut", and they all have a different answer to this, depending on their moral character.

There is, initially as a background note but more and more insistently as the book progresses, the new South Africa, where some people, both black and white, are becoming very rich and very corrupt, while other blacks still live in their old servitude, and where some whites who have committed atrocities during the apartheid period have tried to change their identities and are in fear of their lives.

The book is beautifully written and totally gripping, the prose simple but expressive. One can see that when Galgut writes about poetry, he knows what he is talking about. Though this is in no way a ghost story, there hangs about it at times, especially in the first half, an air of mystery, of something slightly supernatural, which Adam perceives on the edge of things. And the book will certainly haunt this reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 29 Mar. 2010
By 
Pen pal "Topaz" (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impostor (Paperback)
Adam Napier finds himself out of a job and decides to try to conjure up the past where he had successfully published a book of poetry. He finds himself living in a house that his brother owns away from the city, and thinks that perhaps in this environment he will be able to write again. Everything around him is slightly sinister, from his neighbour, the 'blue man', to the house itself. Even the weeds growing out the back seem menacing. It is in this vein that he runs into Canning who professes to know him from school, but who Adam has no memory of. Canning keeps alluding to something Adam (who he calls Nappy) had said to him way back in the past which had a profound effect on him and had shaped his entire life ever since. He regards Adam as a sort of hero. Adam has no idea what it is he said, but he becomes friendly with Canning and his wife Baby, and so embarks on a sort of interlude out of his normal life, hanging out with them and becoming drawn into a surreal sort of world where nothing is quite what it seems. It is a very compelling read, it explores actions and consequences and how we can touch peoples lives in quite significant ways without even realising it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, perceptive and subtle. Impressive stuff!, 4 April 2015
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This review is from: The Impostor (Kindle Edition)
Boy, can Damon Galgut write! I read this on the back of 'Arctic Summer' - which I haven't yet reviewed but can also highly recommend - and I've since purchased and read two further novels, 'The Good Doctor' and 'In a Strange Room'. This, IMO, is the best of the bunch.

Not only is it beautifully written but it positively glows with the wisdom of someone who grasps the paradoxical nature of reality and understands the human condition; someone who's been to hell and back and, therefore, isn't afraid to explore the darker side of human nature, or to highlight sensitive political and cultural issues.

This is a multi-layered story about what it is to be human; about betrayal and revenge, self-acceptance and forgiveness. It's also a story about fate and the, often entirely unintended, consequences of our words and actions. As the title suggests, this book explores the theme of identity. It asks to what extent we remain true to our ideals and principles; to what extent we remain true to ourselves. It also questions how much the past, and our idendification with it, determines the here-and-now.

Obviously an intelligent, sensitive and incredibly perceptive guy, Galgut presents philosophical conundrums without preaching. His restraint results in a subtlety that is not - as evidenced by the one star reviews here - appreciated by everyone. Personally, I genuinely didn't want this book to end and intend to read it again, sooner rather than later.

Galgut's prose here is simple yet sublime. His choice of words is perfect and his attention to rhythm precise. I was reminded of John Banville, another author I greatly admire. There were numerous metaphors so clever, concise and so exquisitely formed that I reread them several times, grinning like someone drunk on words. This is a lesson in how to write like a god. More please, Mr Galgut!

5 Gold Stars!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Talented writing, plot wanting, 16 May 2013
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impostor (Kindle Edition)
In the interests of positive discrimination, Adam loses his job to the young black intern he has trained. I was looking forward to a South African writer's take on the reality of the curdled idealism of life in the post-apartheid system. Certainly, there are telling observations of a corrupt policeman, a beautiful young black woman now able to make her fortune as a white man's wife, older black servants whose lives situations remain remarkably unchanged, and a thug in fear of reprisals from former colleagues he has sold out in his confession to a truth and reconciliation committee. Yet, the book turns out to be more of a psychological drama involving Adam's dealings with a former pupil at his school who seems to have become an unlikely successful entrepreneur.

I admire the clear, uncluttered prose which provides vivid impressions of the South African landscape, some convincing dialogues which reveal, say, Adam's uneasy relationship with his brother, and an insight into Adam's complex state of mind as he goes through a mid-life crisis. I also like the way in which most of the main characters are to some degree "impostors".

However, I agree with the reviewer who finds Galgut's writing somehow "bloodless", promising more than it delivers. In this case, I just did not believe in Adam's ill-judged friendship with Canning, his acceptance of the old nickname "Nappy", nor in Canning's enigmatic wife, nor his magical estate of Gondwana. There were some tense and moving moments, but the ending left me underwhelmed. There are all the ingredients here for a good novel, but the whole ends up less than the sum of the parts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Imposter, 5 Nov. 2009
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Impostor (Paperback)
Damon Galgut is for me the strongest novelist to emerge from South Africa since J.M. Coetzee. His 2003 novel The Good Doctor was shortlisted for the Man Booker, the IMPAC Dublin Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and was a spine-tingling tale of two very different doctors working in a run-down, looted hospital. Shocking and potent, it blasted Galgut into the literary world, despite the fact that Galgut had been quietly producing quality fiction for some time.

Some of the same themes - most notably trust and betrayal - crop up in his 2008 novel The Imposter. Adam Napier is in his early forties and his life in Johannesburg has disintegrated with the loss of his job and his home. His younger brother Gavin, a brash nouveau riche property developer, offers to let Adam stay in a dilapidated house he owns on the edge of a small town miles away. Gavin's motives are mixed - although he cares for his brother he also wants to play the magnanimous superior while enjoying Adam's failure. Adam decides to accept the offer and devote some time to trying to rediscover his latent poet. But, stuck in his dismal and isolated new home with only a desperate neighbour for company, inspiration fails to come.

Then, a figure from Adam's past shows up. Canning remembers Adam from school and holds him in high esteem. Canning has recently inherited a huge estate from his hated father, and extends the hand of unconditional friendship to Adam. Adam is sucked into the world of luxury at Canning's home, and drawn to his mysterious and beautiful wife.

This is a story of a friendship based on lies and of the shadowy world of business, corruption and bribery. The 'new' South Africa is brought under the eye of the microscope and examined forensically, many of its values shown to be a sham. Galgut shows the ease with which a person can be sucked into subterfuge and treachery, both on a personal and a business level. Adam starts off a figure of integrity, railing against his brother's petty property fiddling, but his moral highground quakes when he is tempted by Canning's gorgeous wife and lifestyle.

In this dark and compelling novel, Galgut subtly explores the contradictions in post-Apartheid South Africa. Many poor blacks are still exploited, but now their masters include not only the white overlords of the past but also some fellow blacks who have escaped poverty and done well out of the new system. The dignified, hard-working elderly couple who have worked for Canning's family all their adult lives emerge as the only people with any integrity. Lust and greed corrupt most of the other players in this story.

Galgut writes with an effortless gift, every page studded with stunning imagery. His masterful similes are original and evocative. A corrupt policeman emerges from behind a tree 'like an exclamation mark'. Gavin stands 'like a dark gate-keeper at the door of Adam's new life, blocking the path, one hungry hand extended.' A church steeple rises 'like a strict, admonishing finger'. 'Dark and troubling dreams' recede back into Adam 'like a tide'. Details about a house enter Adam's consciousness by degrees, 'like a photograph developing'. Galgut is one of those rare novelists who uses strikingly original phrases for ordinary phenomena, does it in a throwaway manner that seems natural and unforced, and makes the words sound the most appropriate way to express what you've seen a million times. Consider this one example of hundreds: 'He could see the lights of cars and trucks stitching back and forth with comforting indifference'. Subsequently, his prose is rich in imagery without ever being verbose or heavy.

This ease with language is accompanied by strong, complex characterisation. Adam is a conflicted, troubled man. His brother Gavin is delightfully shallow and competitive. The ambiguous relationship between Adam and Gavin is conveyed beautifully not only through their ostensibly friendly but slightly strained exchanges, but also via the casual but razor-sharp observations Galgut drops into the text: '...since Adam had got into trouble, Gavin had been calling a lot, affecting serious concern.' Canning is made enigmatic by Adam's inability to be honest with him and quiz him about their shared past; the reader wonders whether he is touchingly simple or threateningly convoluted. His wife Baby is initially quiet and unfathomable, but her true character emerges in time. Lindile, the son of the servile couple who work for Canning has the strident anger of those whose race has been exploited for centuries. Adam's neighbour Blom claws and pleads for attention and affection, like a starving cat, but even he has a darker past.

This is a mesmerising, powerful novel, gripping and thought-provoking in equal measure. I have no doubt that in 20 years time, Galgut will be as revered as Coetzee is now.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good writing, 1 May 2013
This review is from: The Impostor (Kindle Edition)
I had never heard of this author before but bought three of his books as part of an Amazon special offer together....I'm always searching for new authors.
If your looking for South African all action sex and violence novels a la Wilbur Smith then this is not for you. Nothing much actually happens. Yet, having visited South Africa I could relate to the feeling this country has...trying to change but with a seething resentment just below the surface of how it used to be.
What makes this book is the writing....and description....of both the characters and the landscape..very taught, minimum sentences....with no superfluous adjectives....interwoven with the dialogue which pulls the story forward.
None of the characters are particularly appealing....and it's not really a pleasant tale....but I read it very quickly as I was interested to find out how it ended. The signature of good writing?
Whatever....I enjoyed it and will read the next two on my kindle....(which appear to have better reviews than this one?)...
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The Impostor
The Impostor by Damon Galgut
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