- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Europa Editions (September 2, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1609452348
- ISBN-13: 978-1609452346
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,114,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Arctic Summer Paperback – September 2, 2014
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Praise for Arctic Summer
"Beautifully written and utterly compelling."
"The author has managed to craft a version of E.M. Forster that penetrates his inner life better than any conventional biography ever has."
"The genius of this novel, which would well be one of the finest literary works published this year, lies in Galgut's exploration of the agony of unrequited love."
—The Irish Times
"A remarkable, lyrical tribute."
"Galgut is extremely good on Forster's anxieties, his loneliness, his unworldliness, and his 'crumpled, second-hand appearance, which made him seem like a tradesman of some kind.' The portrait is beautifully nuanced, a mixture of bold, colorful strokes and delicat little flicks of the brush."
—The Sunday Times
"The pain of unequal love and the desolating gulf between desire and fulfillment, so beautifully conveyed here by Glagut in the case of a long-dead writer, is as recognizable today as it was over a century ago."
About the Author
Damon Galgut is the author of The Good Doctor, a 2003 novel that won the Commonwealth Prize (Africa Region) and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In a Strange Room (Europa, 2010) was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2013, Galgut was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
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This group read one of Galgut's previous books, "In a Strange Room," several years ago and, while some of us sort of liked it, the discussion didn't go especially well. But we decided to read "Arctic Summer" because it is a fictionalized biography of one of our favorite authors, E. M. Forster, and it received fabulous reviews. We weren't disappointed.
There's not a lot of plot in the beautifully written "Arctic Summer," just some travel to India and Egypt, and plenty of sexual repression. In some ways, it's a very inventive book version of a Hollywood biopic. The characters are strong but they don't do much; it's largely a book about writer's block and writing. It's a sad story, an entire life full of internalized homophobia that revolves around an unrequited relationship. Forster seems horny all the time but nothing comes of it; life was just too closeted for respectable "minorites," (as Forster called us) after WW II.
While this book takes place during a specific period in Forster's life, he was at the center of a literary cyclone: authors and publishers Virginia and Leonard Woolf, novelist D.H. Lawrence, Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy, and British libertine Edward Carpenter, among others.
The book tells of Forster's unconsummated relationship with fellow Oxfordian Hugh Meredith; his lifelong infatuation with straight fellow Oxford student Syed Masood from India; his loss of virginity at the age of 37 in an anonymous beach encounter; the grudgingly reciprocated sex with another unavailable partner, the mostly-straight Egyptian train conductor Mohammad; and then his position as a glorified clerk to the Maharajah of Dewas in India before he returns to Britain. He has a few friends but his controlling mother Lily wishes her unhappiness on Forster and seriously limits his life. (If only he'd gone to France or Germany, or even America, when he was younger instead of India, things might have been a little different.)
Of course, if you haven't read Forster's "Maurice," you must. It's also interesting to read Forster's other more famous novels and search for the hidden or coded gay characters, especially "A Passage to India," which fills out this novel, probably more than the short novel named "Arctic Winter" that Forster wrote. Previously, this group loved Colm Toibin's book "The Master," another fictionalized biography, but about the author Henry James. And one reader pointed out that David Leavitt's book "The Indian Clerk" tells a parallel story about gays at Oxford, revolving around an especially a brilliant Indian mathematician.
Some readers thought that "Arctic Summer" started off a bit slowly and it never really becomes engrossing. It many ways it's written in the style of Forster and presents his life in a similar tone, but almost everybody liked it by the end. A number of readers identified with Forster, so it was a huge relief to see photos of Forster with a handsome -albeit straight married- boyfriend later in life. Recommended.
In many instances biographical and historical fiction does a good job to reveal much more into the events and lives that experienced quite an interesting path and allows writers of fiction the ability to expand on the feelings and emotions of the characters. This is the circumstance surrounding the somewhat mysterious life of E.M. Forster. Forster was from a distinguished background, his father and grandfather was Vice-Chancellor of Aligarth Muslim University, a position he acquired in 1929, previously, volunteered with the International Red Cross in Alexandria during the Great War in 1915. It would take him nine years to complete the novel in the process he befriended Syed Ross Masood, a young Indian law student at Cambridge University. Galgut delves deeper into the relationship between Forster and his circle of friends as well as his close acquaintance with Masood that dealt with much public restraint that had to be displayed, their friendship was from a distance; they faced the struggles during a period where non-conventional gender roles were widely unacceptable despite movements of suffrage began to emerge. Especially for Forster who faced constant challenges of being able to be who he was a homosexual man that was extremely mysterious, speaking in future tense to the periods when he felt discouraged, he would become ironically, the father of liberal liberalism. As one will discover near the concluding chapters of the book he begins to realize his potential as a writer and it is that when he begins to breath confidence within himself with the completion of A Passage to India. Galgut writes, “a renewed respect about his name…there had been moments recently when other people had spoken about it, using its title, which still sounded odd to his ears, and he had to remind himself that he, Edward Morgan Forster, had created it. Now it had actually entered the world, multiplied and disseminated far beyond its sources, and had taken on a separate life of its own” (338).
Arctic Summer is an enlightening novel of writer E.M. Forster’s personal life that author Damon Galgut interweaves into fiction. It takes into perspective of a time and place very much different than today.