Shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker prize, Damon Galgut’s latest novel is about loneliness and a search for self – emotions the author knows only too well…

Small Circle of Beings (1988) written when he was 24, consists of a superb novella, the title work, and four other stories. The novella is a mother’s heartbreaking account of her child’s illness; the boy is expected to die. She refers to the drugs “wrapping his mind in bandages I cannot penetrate”. During the agonising hospital ordeal, the father announces he is leaving to be with another woman. The narrator tends her son and eventually begins a dangerous relationship with a violent artist. The son recovers yet drifts further and further away from his mother.

Galgut understands these agonies. Diagnosed with lymphatic cancer at six, he lived under a death sentence for five years. “I learned all about mortality too early in life.” (Times) >>>