For lovers of English literature, Galgut's novel is a feast of references to Forster's masterpiece. Morgan forges a deep bond with a young Indian student ("I demand to be a character in your novel"), which sets the stage for the cross-cultural friendship between Fielding and Aziz at the heart of A Passage to India. Morgan visits the Barabar Caves, which he will transform into his novel's terrifying and mysterious center. Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence and the poet C.P. Cavafy are among the dozens of historical characters who appear in the book, nudging and prodding the insecure Morgan to produce his greatest work.
Throughout his life, Morgan is portrayed as a man always in the middle, torn between English ways and Indian, between patriots and conscientious objectors, between public respectability and closeted homosexuality. Galgut's dedication in Arctic Summer echoes Forster's famous dedication in A Passage to India in which he openly announced his 17-year friendship with an Indian man. That's only one of the many ways in which Galgut shows he is the perfect creative engine to bring Forster to life in a multidimensional portrait of a man caught between two cultures struggling to come to terms with himself.
If E.M. Forster could have written an honest novel about his own frustrated life, he might have written Arctic Summer. Galgut has done the next best thing: he's created a wise, sensitive, sometimes hilarious novel in the Forster tradition of subtle observations and cultural clash. It's the brave, occasionally heartbreaking account of a man who dared to love across race and gender lines, a beautifully crafted portrait of two civilizations colliding enhanced by Galgut's exhilarating insights into the life of one of the 20th century's greatest writers.