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The Good Doctor


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Shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker prize, Galgut's fifth novel, his first to be published in the U.S., explores postapartheid South Africa's ambiguous present, where deep-rooted social and political tensions threaten any shared dream for the future. Resigned to self-exile at an inadequate hospital in a desolate former "homeland," the disillusioned Dr. Frank Eloff befriends a new volunteer: fresh-faced Dr. Laurence Waters. Determined to revivify the rural hospital and more broadly, South Africa which has slipped into humdrum dysfunction, Laurence tests Frank's stifled sensibilities and challenges hospital director Dr. Ngema, who frequently quips that she is all for "change and innovation," even though she cannot abide confrontation with her own modest authority. The young doctor's idealism eventually collides with the old power structure, the "ex-tinpot dictator of the ex-homeland" called the Brigadier and his lawless band. Neither Laurence nor Frank wholly grasps the culture and poverty of the place in which they live and are supposed to serve; they remain strangers in their own country, "traveling in a different landscape" than the black South Africans. Frank grapples with his former passivity in the face of racism and torture in the military, while Laurence pulls recklessly toward a fantastic dream of utopia, and the two doctors are "twined together in a tension that unites." But "a rope doesn't know what its own purpose is," and South Africa seems ever capable of sliding back into the mistrust and political strife of the past. Like Graham Greene's work, this quiet, affecting novel will attract those haunted by the shadow of colonialism. Agent, Valerie Duff/Toby Mundy. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Galgut (A Sinless Season) presents a series of contrasts: youth and age, idealism and pessimism, integrity and degeneration, black and white-even life and death, though this final duality is highly ironic. Set in the author's native South Africa just after apartheid, this is the story of two doctors who work in a decaying rural hospital. Laurence tries to improve the health and education of the local villagers, while the narrator, Frank, tries to pass time dispassionately, too absorbed in the hurts of his past to reach out to others. For all his efforts, however, he can't help being affected by Laurence's vitality. As Galgut shows, even one's own conscience can be misleading in this bitterly suspicious and wounded country. An intense work comparable to those of J.M. Coetzee in its evocative depictions of its characters' inner lives and the uneasy human relations caused by apartheid, this is recommended for academic libraries and for public libraries that collect literary fiction.-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Memorial Lib., Lexington Park, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"A truly remarkable novel, steeped in contemporary history, yet at the same time transcending it. I was enthralled by its intensity and the immediacy of every small twist and turn of the story."
-Andre Brink
"A tremendous brave book. The author never flinches, and makes his hero's dark logic compelling and hair-rising. . . . Galgut writes like a man on a long fast night drive through bad places.... It's brilliant."
-Dermot Healy
"From the first page the reader is gripped by a rare twinning of convictions: that it is strange and new, and that the imaginative rendering is of the highest quality.... There are traces of J. M. Coetzee and Graham Greene but Damon Galgut is a true original."
-Geoff Dyer
"If there is a posterity, "The Good Doctor will be seen as one of the great literary triumphs of South Africa's transition, a novel that is in every way the equal of J.M. Coetzee's "Disgrace.... [Galgut is] a novelist of great and growing power."
-Rian Malan

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