Friday, July 11, 2014
EM Forster began the novel he called Arctic Summer in 1909, on the heels of three others that had brought him considerable renown as a writer. He would go on to publish Howards End in 1910, and 14 years later, A Passage to India. His novel Maurice, written between 1913 and 1914, about love between men in a repressed, homophobic England, would come out posthumously. But Arctic Summer would never be finished, its mysterious, moody title evoking instead the uncertainties about writing, sexuality, relationships and empire that racked Forster's life, especially during the long stretch between Howards End and A Passage to India.
Forster could not, of course, have known the fate of his unfinished novel when he began writing it. Nor could he have foreseen the resurrection of his title, more than a century later, in the hands of the South African writer Damon Galgut, who uses it, in clear homage and affection, for his own novel about Forster's stasis and transformation during those years. It is a project to which Galgut, whose fiction has often covered the terrain of love, race and politics, seems perfectly suited as a writer.