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Video: Damon Galgut Speaks about Piecing Together EM Forster’s Life in Arctic Summer

Damon Galgut

Arctic SummerDamon Galgut spoke to The Economist about his new novel, Arctic Summer, a fictionalised account of EM Forster’s writing of A Passage to India.

Fiammetta Rocco, books and arts editor at The Economist, speaks about her time as a Man Booker Prize judge ten years ago, when Colm Tóibín’s book about Henry James, The Master, was on the shortlist. “Part of the discussion with the other judges was about a writer’s imagination,” she says. “There was a very, very strong feeling that writing a novel based on somebody’s life, a real-life person, with all the facts that are known about them, was somehow on an imaginative scale, less.”

In response, Galgut, whose novel is considered likely to be up for the Man Booker this year, argues that aside from the extensive research he undertook in writing it, large amounts of the book are entirely devised by his imagination.

Galgut has spoken before about the process of inventing details within a strict factual framework, which in fact he called “God-awful”, and he says some descriptions in Forster’s diary and letters were so sparse that it took an immense effort to interpret and build on them.

“I haven’t invented big exterior events, because that would feel to me wrong,” he says, “but the central episode in Forster’s book, and in mine, is Forster’s visit to the caves. Now, I had to piece together whole jigsaw of separate emotional things to understand that that cave visit was for Forster a kind of turning
point …”

Watch the interview:

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