I don’t know if I’ve ever read something as beautiful, evocative, or postmodern as this. Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room is a very idea-driven novel, but one of the most gorgeous pieces of prose I’ve ever read. I first heard of it when I was listening to a panel on the pastoral in contemporary fiction for Modern Language Association this past January (that’s my professional organization), and I was intrigued by the concept. I wanted to see what it was all about. So glad I checked it out.
The novel takes place in three parts: the follower, the lover, and the guardian. Each chronicles a journey in a different part of the world, with a different set of fellow journeyers, and each ends with wrenching consequences. But it explores a different facet of the unnamed narrator (who is sometimes named Damon, and sometimes referred to in first-person and sometimes in third-person), who is trying to find some piece of himself in a different part of the world.
It is really hard to describe, and there’s not much of a “plot” that can be fleshed out. The strength is in the writing. The phrasing is eloquent and teases out so many different ideas. It’s a book that you really need to experience more than read.
Beyond J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, I’m not overly familiar with South African writers, so I’m glad I have a bit more exposure to some more Anglophone writers. I will be checking out Galgut’s other work, for sure!