ARC­TIC SUM­MER

DNA Magazine - - BOOK REVIEWS - By Damon Galgut

Arc­tic Sum­mer steps back in time to imag­i­na­tively ex­plore the cre­ative process of EM (Mor­gan) Forster as he comes to write his fa­mous novel, A Pas­sage To In­dia. Forster’s trav­els to In­dia are in­spired by a charis­matic young In­dian, Ma­sood, his Latin tu­tor. Ma­sood’s per­son­al­ity is dif­fer­ent to the typ­i­cal English­man (he is af­fec­tion­ate, en­thu­si­as­tic and bois­ter­ous) and Forster is cap­ti­vated. But when Ma­sood re­turns to In­dia and Forster fol­lows some­time later with in­flated ro­man­tic ex­pec­ta­tions, things be­gin to go awry. Ma­sood is pre­oc­cu­pied with work, has lit­tle free time for his friend and even ad­mits to con­sid­er­ing an ar­ranged mar­riage. When Forster con­fides the ar­dour of his feel­ings, Ma­sood does not re­spond in kind.

Arc­tic Sum­mer is a fas­ci­nat­ing ex­plo­ration of the cre­ative process and how var­i­ous in­ci­dents or people pro­voke the au­thor’s imag­i­na­tion and be­come melded into his book. For ex­am­ple, when Mor­gan is sur­rep­ti­tiously groped by Ed­ward Car­pen­ter’s boyfriend, he sud­denly re­alises that sex­ual tres­pass is what should be at the heart of his In­dian novel. This cli­mac­tic scene had eluded him but this (not al­to­gether un­wel­come) in­ci­dent sparks his in­spi­ra­tion. Read­ers who are fa­mil­iar with A Pas­sage To In­dia and EM Forster are un­doubt­edly go­ing to get a lot more out of this novel than those who know lit­tle. But this is a su­perb book, em­bed­ded in com­pre­hen­sive re­search, and nar­rated with this nov­el­ist’s mas­tery of char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, set­ting and at­mos­phere. It’s sim­i­lar to Colm Toibin’s equally fine por­trait of Henry James in his 2004 Booker Prize nom­i­nated novel, The Mas­ter.

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