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Arctic Summer (2014)

by Damon Galgut

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2341491,219 (3.88)47
In 1912, the SS Birmingham approaches India. On board is Morgan Forster, novelist and man of letters, who is embarking on a journey of discovery. As Morgan stands on deck, the promise of a strange new future begins to take shape before his eyes. The seeds of a story start to gather at the corner of his mind: a sense of impending menace, lust in close confines, under a hot, empty sky. It will be another 12 years, and a second time spent in India, before 'A Passage to India', E.M. Forster's great work of literature, is published. During these years, Morgan will come to a profound understanding of himself as a man, and of the infinite subtleties and complexity of the human nature, bringing these great insights to bear in his remarkable novel.… (more)
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» See also 47 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
fiction re Forster; paper; read 2014
  18cran | Nov 7, 2021 |
The long is: I suspect most people come to this as an EM Forster fan, whereas I'm the contrary case. This was the only Galgut I hadn't read when I picked it up in London a year or more ago. On the other hand, I've never read a thing by EM Forster other than his brilliant short story 'The Machine Stops'.

So enamoured am I of Galgut that when I bought this, I didn't even look at the back cover, only to discover when I sat down to begin it at home that it is a bio-novel. I was crestfallen. I have a historian's distaste for bio-pics, biography, autobiography. Why would a bio-novel be any different? What is it? Some excuse to write a biography without doing the hard work? Without having to bother with the facts? Back on the shelf it sat, and sat. And sat. Until the other day when I came upon it soon after an experience which had given me a different perspective on this sort of book. I read Infinity: The Story of a Moment by Gabriel Josipovici, read it, loved it, and only subsequently discovered it was a bio-novel.

Rest here:

https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/arctic-summer-by-damon-ga...
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
The long is: I suspect most people come to this as an EM Forster fan, whereas I'm the contrary case. This was the only Galgut I hadn't read when I picked it up in London a year or more ago. On the other hand, I've never read a thing by EM Forster other than his brilliant short story 'The Machine Stops'.

So enamoured am I of Galgut that when I bought this, I didn't even look at the back cover, only to discover when I sat down to begin it at home that it is a bio-novel. I was crestfallen. I have a historian's distaste for bio-pics, biography, autobiography. Why would a bio-novel be any different? What is it? Some excuse to write a biography without doing the hard work? Without having to bother with the facts? Back on the shelf it sat, and sat. And sat. Until the other day when I came upon it soon after an experience which had given me a different perspective on this sort of book. I read Infinity: The Story of a Moment by Gabriel Josipovici, read it, loved it, and only subsequently discovered it was a bio-novel.

Rest here:

https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/arctic-summer-by-damon-ga...
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
The long is: I suspect most people come to this as an EM Forster fan, whereas I'm the contrary case. This was the only Galgut I hadn't read when I picked it up in London a year or more ago. On the other hand, I've never read a thing by EM Forster other than his brilliant short story 'The Machine Stops'.

So enamoured am I of Galgut that when I bought this, I didn't even look at the back cover, only to discover when I sat down to begin it at home that it is a bio-novel. I was crestfallen. I have a historian's distaste for bio-pics, biography, autobiography. Why would a bio-novel be any different? What is it? Some excuse to write a biography without doing the hard work? Without having to bother with the facts? Back on the shelf it sat, and sat. And sat. Until the other day when I came upon it soon after an experience which had given me a different perspective on this sort of book. I read Infinity: The Story of a Moment by Gabriel Josipovici, read it, loved it, and only subsequently discovered it was a bio-novel.

Rest here:

https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/arctic-summer-by-damon-ga...
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
I grabbed this book from the library in my usual, arbitrary way: I liked the spine and the binding, and the cover; then I saw it was a Europa Edition and decided to check it out. Then I never got around to reading it, and had forgotten about it until noticing it on my Overdrive wishlist.

Arctic Summer is biographical novel of English novelist E.M. Forster; it's mostly about Morgan's desperate search for love and companionship and sex, and how he basically didn't get those things. It's gorgeous and emotional and restrained, and I loved every word.

Overwhelmingly, this novel is just bittersweet. Morgan is so sweetly likeable (I know it's trendy these days to want unlikable characters, but there's something to be said for characters you also just want to squish) but his life so empty despite the people, jobs, and travel that fill it. He finds some intense emotional relationships, a few that translate into physical/sexual ones, but all seem lopsided and unequal -- some, because the other man is not as interested; some, because of racial and class inequalities.

Morgan's yearning for companionship just hit me so hard; despite all the changes legally and socially in some parts of the world, queer folks still can't live freely and openly. I'm lucky in my life that I haven't lost anything in being open with the person I love -- but it's easy to imagine a world in which I didn't have that luxury.

Galgut draws from a wealth of source material, and apparently includes real quotes -- slightly amended -- in the text, a technique I didn't notice, and the narrative reads beautifully. Every other line is quote-worthy; despite the slim size of this read, I kept pausing to meditate and chew over the story.

I'm genuinely sad having finished it; not just because I've ended a good read but because I ache for Morgan. I want a few more pages where he is not just fine -- because he is fine -- but where he is stupidly, insanely happy. ( )
1 vote unabridgedchick | Sep 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
added by gsc55 | editReviews by Amos Lassen (Jul 26, 2014)
 
Includes YouTube interview with Flametta Rocco of The Economist
added by gsc55 | editBand of Thebes (May 9, 2014)
 
Arctic Summer largely concerns the interval between the conception of A Passage to India and the novel’s publication. Galgut gamely represents the social and political climate in England on either side of the war, but his main interest lies in Forster’s experiences abroad: both his sexual encounters and the web of race and class in which he found himself caught. The novel draws on his letters and diaries, quoting them directly and re-creating episodes they describe. Galgut weaves scenes and phrases from A Passage to India throughout Arctic Summer in an attempt (as he explains in his acknowledgements) to “suggest the wide range of sources from which Forster may have drawn his material”. Suggestion is one thing, but such literal correspondence feels contrived – as do laborious explanations of how Forster translated his experiences into fiction.
 
There have been several biographies of E.M. Forster, one of the most delicate British novelists of the 20th century. He was a middle-class intellectual, a peripheral member of the Bloomsbury group, an honorary Cambridge fellow and a spinsterish bachelor. He was awarded the prestigious Order of Merit (there are only 24 at any one time), but his public life shrouded his secret homosexuality and, with it, a longing for the exotic East. In “Arctic Summer” Damon Galgut, an openly gay South African novelist, has fictionalised Forster’s most fruitful period as a writer and his years of sexual discovery.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Economist (Mar 1, 2014)
 
EM Forster began the novel he called Arctic Summer in 1909, on the heels of three others that had brought him considerable renown as a writer. He would go on to publish Howards End in 1910, and 14 years later, A Passage to India. His final novel, Maurice, about love between men in a repressed, homophobic England, would come out posthumously. But Arctic Summer would never be finished, its mysterious, moody title evoking instead the uncertainties about writing, sexuality, relationships and empire that racked Forster's life, especially during the long stretch between Howards End and A Passage to India.

Forster could not, of course, have known the fate of his unfinished novel when he began writing it. Nor could he have foreseen the resurrection of his title, more than a century later, in the hands of the South African writer Damon Galgut, who uses it, in clear homage and affection, for his own novel about Forster's stasis and transformation during those years.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Siddhartha Deb (Feb 28, 2014)
 
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"Orgies are so important, and they are things one knows nothing about"

E.M. Forster to P.N. Furbank, 1953
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To Riyaz Ahmad Mir and to the fourteen years of our friendship
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In 1912, the SS Birmingham approaches India. On board is Morgan Forster, novelist and man of letters, who is embarking on a journey of discovery. As Morgan stands on deck, the promise of a strange new future begins to take shape before his eyes. The seeds of a story start to gather at the corner of his mind: a sense of impending menace, lust in close confines, under a hot, empty sky. It will be another 12 years, and a second time spent in India, before 'A Passage to India', E.M. Forster's great work of literature, is published. During these years, Morgan will come to a profound understanding of himself as a man, and of the infinite subtleties and complexity of the human nature, bringing these great insights to bear in his remarkable novel.

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