Original Research

He wrote a letter home to myself: Tracing the epistolary in Damon Galgut’s ‘In a strange room

Erin O'Dwyer
Literator | Vol 35, No 1 | a1135 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v35i1.1135 | © 2014 Erin O'Dwyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 June 2014 | Published: 28 November 2014

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Erin O'Dwyer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Australia


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Abstract

This article considers Damon Galgut’s In a strange room as a work of contemporary epistolary fiction. Recent studies of epistolarity argue that the epistolary tradition remains identifiable and apparent even once woven into other genres. Though not strictly an epistolary novel, In a strange room addresses the same thematic concerns that exist in all epistolary writing – exile,loneliness, unrequited love, self-identity and trial. This article asks the same three questions that all epistolary fiction invites: To whom, for whom and why does Damon write? The epistolary mode is considered with reference to Jacques Lacan’s gaze theory. The gaze sets up an inherent secret, revealing the truth only in the final dénouement. In epistolary work, it anticipates the voyeuristic reader, compelling him or her to watch. The gaze can be found in only one of Galgut’s three novellas. It is for this reason that In a strange room makes for difficult reading. It is also why the novel is so confounding and compelling, presenting as it does the internal dialogue of a lonely man.

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