Damon Galgut, "The Follower"

What could have been the start of a beautiful friendship turns into a grueling circular death march.

(from The Paris Review, Summer 2005)

He sits on the edge of a rasied stone floor and stares out unseeingly into the hills around him and now he is thinking of things that happened in the past. Looking back at him through time, I remember him remembering, and I am more present in the scene than he was. But memory has its own distances, in part he is me entirely, in part he is a strange I am watching.

That’s how our narrator prepares us for this story’s unflinching shifts between past and present tense, first and third person. Sometimes in mid-sentence. Moments of intensity or confusion sometimes shift away from the “I” to the “me,” the way you might feel out of your own body during some trauma. For our narrator, whom we find out is named Damon, third person is a way to moralize and explain, because actual memory is imperfect and, maybe just a little, irrelevant. With the author openly wielding such a storytelling weapon, we the readers are forced to accept it, even when it’s jarring, even when we can’t tell whether Damon or Reiner is the “he” this time.
And it’s a beautiful story, one with no purpose other than to tell the story of a journey that has no purpose except to see. New places, new relationships, new boundaries. The sentences are sometimes masterfully simple, other times suddenly philosophical. Wise generalizations sprout out of narrative vignettes. Unexplainable human behaviors are rendered sensical. And foreign places become manageable and archetypal, while still hanging onto reality and hostility.
Here‘s a 2003 interview with Damon Galgut. This story came recommended by my closest literary confidant.
MAGIC UPDATE: The wise and helpful Andie Miller tells me “The Follower” is “
the first half of the ‘unpublished’ Free Fall or Flight.” Read Andie’s interview with Damon Galgut. (FYI: It’s a pdf.)

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