the guardian Fri 08 May 2009
The new South Africa has not delivered everything that it might have. Adam, who greeted its arrival with joy, has lost his job, while his home in a neighbourhood that once bubbled with multicultural grooviness has since become a slum, has been repossessed. In a moment of condescension, Adam's boorish brother offers him the use of a rundown house in a small town on the edge of the savannah. Adam wants escape and fertile ground to write poetry. Instead he enters a soulless town inhabited by fugitives more desperate than himself: a strange neighbour who craves company, and Canning, an old schoolfriend whom Adam can barely remember. Galgut builds his novel into a study in dread as Canning's dodgy dealings and troubled childhood surface and an eerie presence mutters dark thoughts. The action is compelling in itself, and Galgut handles it with brilliance, but The Imposter gives its drama weight by tying it to an angry commentary on modern South Africa, despairing at corrupt politicians, downtrodden "coloureds" and a landscape trampled underfoot.