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In a Strange Room Paperback – 1 Apr 2011
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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
SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2010
'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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
I've been meaning to read Damon Galgut for a long time. His father (I think he was a judge) was a friend of my brother-in-law. When I saw this available on Kindle I decided to take the plunge and I'm so glad I did.
He has an extraordinary style in this book of writing as Damon and then in the third person, so you're never quite sure if it's a novel or autobiographical.
The book is divided into three parts. The first - The Follower, is the story of meeting this mysterious German stranger who only wears black, while backpacking around Greece. After his return to South Africa he is surprised but happy when he contacts him and they set off on a walking trip around Lesotho.
Damon, who had been slightly in love with this man, soon finds out that he is a control freak and he can't wait to get to the end of the trip to wave goodbye forever to him.
In the Lover, he is once more traveling through Africa - this time through Malawi and Tanzania. He meets up with a bunch of Swiss backpackers and again falls in love, following them all the way back to Europe where again, his love is thwarted.
In the third part, The Guardian, he is asked to take a very psychologically damaged friend to India to see if this will prevent her from committing suicide.
All the stories are beautifully written but I think his last, The Guardian, was absolutely outstanding. You get to feel his helplessness, anger, fear, sadness caused by this girl's total meltdown.
I appreciate the stylistic attraction of using "He" when meaning "I" in these stories, but for me, it became too much of an artifice... It may fascinate for a while, it may even work quite well at times, but it quickly became heavy going... and ended up feeling like an exercise in "navel gazing" for me.
It too often reminded me of some French authors who feel dutybound to come up with a unique stylistic or literary formula in a bid to impress...
There were some disappointing sentences too... such as "He doesn't want the sun to rise or this particular journey to end." And how did Damon not realise that Reiner was travelling on the Autistic spectrum and not beside him? Still, the author's loneliness is very touching and well served by the literary stylistic choice he made.
But is this a true "TRAVEL BOOK"? I'd say no because it lacks the direct engagement with a new environment that tests and reveals something meaningful about the world and the author.
The three meditations on travel involve dislocations of self, time and reality and the author reflects this in his sparse style and his hopping back and forwards between third and first person. We sense that the material is autobiographical, but, like the writer, we are watching it re-run and edited in the writing of it. As in a film, the POV changes and we see, for example, the drama of the Lesotho landscape and then experience the petty irritations of a travelling companion who doesn't do his share of the chores.
The protagonist is lonely, as travellers usually are, and projects his desire for contact on people he meets. When they roll up in his home country, or he visits them, the bubble of being away is burst and mundane details make the relationships more real but less interesting.
Mortality is a theme in the book. The last section describes the horror of nursing a friend through a suicide attempt in Indian hospitals. Another character dies off stage, and throughout this elegant examination of memory, we are aware that what remains of our travels is nothing but the stuff of dreams, partial accounts of partly recalled places and people, a sense of having been here and there which is unrelated to the deeper stuff of roots and community.
I can see why some readers had a sense of 'emperor's new clothes' but I'd recommend this book for its courage and precision.