cover image THE QUARRY


Damon Galgut, . . Grove/Atlantic/Black Cat, $13 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-4161-3

In a bleak morality tale about a fugitive from justice, Galgut (The Good Doctor ) again demonstrates his flair for charting the vicissitudes of human despair in modern-day South Africa. After the unnamed, near-starving protagonist is picked up by a minister traveling to his next church post, he repays the holy man's generosity by murdering him. The desperado quietly slips into the minister's role and tries to assimilate into mainstream society, but his misdeeds continue to dog his every move. If Galgut's concise prose is nearly leached of emotion, it certainly sets the scene: "There was a film of dust on everything in the car as though it had been standing there for years. He stared ahead through the windscreen. There were the corpses of beetles shattered on the glass and their legs and feelers were composed in attitudes of violent expiry." With increasingly stomach-tightening intensity, Galgut chronicles his troubled protagonist's struggles to evade capture under the ever-watchful eye of the authorities in his new town. The suspenseful narrative never strays from the dreary force of its understated character development ("He reached out with his filthy, his bloody hands and began to eat without looking at them"). As the story builds to a climax, Galgut heightens the book's emotional power with tense one-page chapters until justice—cosmic justice, in this case—comes to call. Agent, Ira Silverberg, at Donadio & Olson. (Feb.)