This is a writer, writing a novel about another writer’s life. In Arctic Summer Damon Galgut tells the story of E.M. Forster, how he became interested in India and how his beloved book A Passage to India gradually took shape.
Galgut describes Forster’s own personal life, an only child who lost his father when he was just two years old, lived closely with his mother until he went to Cambridge, later tutored a young Indian who was going up to Oxford, and finally made the trip to India to see his young friend. Forster, or Morgan as he is called here, slowly came to recognize his homosexuality and the difficulty he had in making close relationships. While he constantly sought affection, desire or lust interfered and he was left unfulfilled. The British reticence among his mother’s friends didn’t help although there are interesting sections on some famous authors he got to know, e.g. Virginia and Leonard Woolf and D.H. Lawrence.
Forster made a second, longer trip to India and there are lovely sections describing life in that country. He did find happiness, although the mystery of India remained with him. Slowly but surely the script of A Passage to India developed and became a book.
Galgut has won international prizes for his books, In a Strange Room and The Good Doctor. He lives in Capetown, South Africa, a city populated by people of all different races and creeds, which is apparent in a book like this one.
Reviewed by Anne McDougall