In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

A journey is a gesture inscribed in space, it vanishes even as it’s made. You go from one place to another place, and on to somewhere else again, and already behind you there is no trace that you were ever there. The roads you went down yesterday are full of different people now, none of them knows who you are. In the room you slept in last night a stranger lies in the bed. Dust covers over your footprints, the marks of your fingers are wiped off the door, from the floor and table the bits and pieces of evidence that you might have dropped are swept up and thrown away and they never come back again. The very air closes behind you like water and soon your presence, which felt so weighty and permanent, has completely gone. Things happen once only and are never repeated, never return. Except in memory.

Just one quote from Damon Galgut’s superb novel, In a Strange Room. This 3-part story is ostensibly about 3 journeys taken by a South African character named…Damon, but it’s also about relationships and impermanence with parallels drawn between journeys taken and relationships endured. For my full review go to Mostly Fiction. I’m pimping the book here because it’s so very, very good. (Disclaimer: copy from publisher) I really can’t praise this book enough for the way in which the author concentrates on distances between people who are cast together in journeys–two of which are as hellish as the relationships between the characters.

For another take on the book (equally positive) go visit Kevin, and if, like me, you’re curious about Galgut’s other work, go here to Charles Lambert’s blog. 

In a Strange Room is, by the way, a Booker Prize loser.

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7 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Galgut Damon

7 responses to “In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

  1. After reading the introduction quote I thought : « He needs to read Proust » or at least, browse through the beginning of A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleur, book II, when the narrator describes his anguish to leave his room in Paris for a strange room in Balbec.
    What a praise! I haven’t been reading you blog for that long, but I don’t remember you praising a book that much. It seems it crossed a boundary in you someway.
    It hasn’t been translated yet and I’m not sure I should read this in English. So I’ll keep it in mind and wait for the French edition.
    PS: I’ve seen a positive review by John Self too.

  2. Now this is a book I must read – because it’s been well-reviewed most places I’ve seen by reviewers I respect (such as your good self) and because I rather like “bleak alienation” (if done well). I shall bookmark your Mostly Fiction review to read when I manage to get to the book. Love the cover … and your last line did make me laugh!

  3. I find the motivations for travel interesting. In the case in point, the narrator seems to be restless & rootless, and this seems partly, at least, something to do with his sense of self. He obviously has problems with relationships and yet each of these journeys has him in a relationship–2 of the 3 are hellish to one degree or another. Reminds me of being trapped in a train carriage with some nasty person. The same sort of idea. So here’s this narrator who seeks novelty, freedom & experience in travel and gets … well you have to read the book to see what he gets.

  4. It’s definitely one I’m looking forward to. Kevin sang its praises as you note, and now you do too. Trevor of Mookse and Gripes also loved it, and he read it on his mobile!

    I own a copy (on my Kindle) so it’s absolutely on my TBR list.

  5. leroyhunter

    It’s a superb piece of work, undoubtedly one of the finest I read last year. I can’t wait to get to his other stuff (I have The Impostor on the shelf).

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