Europa’s cover design for Damon Galgut’s third novel could be a frame from a Merchant-Ivory film. That wouldn’t be too far off, actually, since Arctic Summer is a fictionalized biography of E. M. Forster whose novels A Room With a View, Maurice and Howards End Ismail Merchant and James Ivory put before the camera. I don’t know much about Forster (haven’t read his books, though I’ve seen some of the movie versions), so I’m especially interested to read Galgut’s treatment of his life. Here’s the Jacket Copy:
Damon Galgut's third novel, a fictionalized biography of English author E. M. Forster, focuses on Forster's many years in India and the process of writing his masterpiece, A Passage to India. This compact, finely wrought novel also addresses Forster's unforgiving childhood in England and the homosexuality he feared and repressed throughout his life. Psychologically acute without being sentimental, Forster's relationships are described with compassion and great care. Galgut is a master at constructing strange, compelling landscapes, and Arctic Summer shifts seamlessly between staid, restricting England and Cairo and vibrant, pleasantly, absurd India. Moments of gentle humor shine through the sparse prose, lending Forster a humanity that makes his story all the more heartbreaking.
Even the Opening Lines have a formality that seems to be in line with something Forster himself would write:
In October of 1912, the SS City of Birmingham was travelling through the Red Sea, midway on her journey to India, when two men found themselves together on the forward deck. Each had come there separately, hoping to escape a concert that some of the other passengers were organising, but they were slightly acquainted by now and not unhappy to have company. It was the middle of the afternoon. They were sitting in a spot that offered sun and shade, as well as seclusion from the wind. Both carried books with them, which they politely set aside when they began to speak.
Blurbworthiness: “In describing these adventures and encounters, as well as meetings with Edward Carpenter and others, Galgut has so seamlessly incorporated Forster’s diaries, letters and novels into his narrative that it is often hard to tell which novelist is which.” (The Telegraph)