There is this charm to old-world stories and to people who lived then. `This is even more true when it comes to writers and what they write and sometimes what they do not or what they were supposed to, but did not. E.M. Forster is one such writer. He wrote what he did and at the same time, he could only talk about his orientation in hushed tones, in the form of Maurice. He wanted to write his last novel – called Arctic Summer, but could not.
Damon Galgut takes a slice of life (and a very important slice) of Forster’s life – the creation of A Passage to India and builds his tale around it. Of course, most of it is rooted in fact, but it is Galgut’s voice that is unique and fresh when narrating this tale, most unusual and of how inspiration or muses can make or break you.
E.M. Forster became friends with Syed Ross Masood, on one of his trips. Masood was in England to study law from India and returned to India in 1912. Forster followed him to India and what followed then was this love that he had for Masood – this overpowering, passionate and mad love, which he could do nothing about. Morgan (as he was fondly known) then went back to India in 1924 and the twelve year gap is the time when A Passage to India was thought and written.
Galgut’s voice is strong and taut. The homosexuality love and aspect of it is not in hush tones and at the same time it does not jump at you from the pages. Galgut has evoked the life of E.M. Forster with brilliance and knack. The writing is subtle, emotional (well not too much) and also overwhelming to a large extent. “Arctic Summer” is one of those unconventional books that deserve a reread as well and my bet is when the monsoons come along.