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The Good Doctor


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About the Author

Damon Galgut was born in Pretoria in 1963 and now lives in Cape Town. He wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season, when he was seventeen. His other books include Small Circle of Beings, The Quarry and The Good Doctor.


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.

'The bold, fresh voice of South African fiction' * Observer *
'A latter day Heart of Darkness' -- Michael Arditti * Daily Mail *
'His sentences have such hypnotic power that once started, this novel is very hard to put down' -- Russell Celyn Jones * The Times *
'A lovely, lethal, disturbing novel' -- Christopher Hope * Guardian *
'A gripping read, laced throughout with powerful emotional truth and Damon Galgut's extraordinary vision' -- Julie Wheelwright * Independent *
'As good as Graham Greene' -- Joan Bakewell * Sunday Times *
'Should have won the Booker.' -- Norman Lebrecht, Books of the Year * Evening Standard *

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.

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