J.M. Coetzee Watch #12

Review of Waiting for the Barbarians

Zach Hitchcock on the "Floggin' and Bloggin'" weblog: "After reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for a few weeks, one would generally not be extremely excited to explore yet another short colonization novel that takes place around the turn of the century; however, after only reading three chapters, I can honestly say I am surprised to find I thoroughly enjoy J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians. Given the long, tedious, and often tangential narration of Conrad's novel and considering the fact the curriculum intends for us to compare the two books, I found myself not at all apprehensive about reading Coetzee's story and constantly procrastinating on the completion of the assignment. Yet, as I began reading, I honestly could not put it down. One of the first things that jumped out at me is simply the style in
which Coetzee writes. Using prose, colloquial language and a vivid present tense, the style of the book's narration creates a very captivating discussion effect, as if the Magistrate is actually with you face-to-face, telling you his story."

Review of Life and Times of Michael K.

Michael Cheney, whose "The Mumpsimus" weblog is one of the best litblogs around, has been teaching Life and Times of Michael K. for his course on Outsiders, considers what appeals to him about Coetzee: "As I read Michael K. this time, I tried to think about what it is in Coetzee's work that so appeals to me. It's no individual quality, really, because there are people who have particular skills that exceed Coetzee's. There are many writers who are more eloquent, writers with more complex and evocative structures, writers of greater imagination...And then I realized that I was marking up my teaching copy of Michael K. as if I were marking up a poem. I looked, then, at my teaching copy of Disgrace, from when I used it in a class a few years ago. The same thing. Lots of circled words, lots of 'cf.'s referring me to words and phrases in other parts of the book. Lots of sounds building on sounds, rhythms on rhythms in a way that isn't particularly meaningful in itself, but that contributes to an overall tone-structure, a scaffold of utterance to hold up the shifting meanings of the story and characters."

Review of Disgrace

The "Among the Tumbled Heap" weblog ponders "The Tao of Coetzee": "Against the sometimes brutal backdrop of rural South Africa, Coetzee's story illumines the complexities of disgrace and what it means to be disgraced, spiraling deeper and deeper into both our personal and corporate conceptions of guilt and justice...There is no dualism for Coetzee. An act of 'disgrace' is simultaneously [an] act of 'redemption.'..There is nothing but dualism for Coetzee. There is disgrace and redemption. There is justice and injustice. Good and evil."

Review of Diary of a Bad Year

"Irish Times": "This is a novel for our times in its content and in the exacting way it may be read -- the essays first or in parallel? It ranges in tone from news-stand fiction to Joyce's artistic distance of a writer sitting on a cloud. It's full of surprises but not for the slothful."

Article by Coetzee

Coetzee reviews David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair by Irìne Nímirovsky, for "The New York Review of Books": "The problem for Nímirovsky as a budding writer in the 1920s was that aside from her facility in the French language, the capital she commanded on the French literary market consisted in a corpus of experience that branded her as foreign: daily life in pre-revolutionary Russia, pogroms and Cossack raids, the Revolution and the Civil War, plus to a lesser extent the shady world of international finance. In the course of her career she would thus alternate, according to her sense of the temper of the times, between two authorial selves, one pur sang French, one exotic. As a French authoress she would compose books about 'real' French families written with an irreproachably French sensibility, books with no whiff of foreignness about them. The French self took over entirely after 1940, as publishers became more and more nervous about the presence of Jewish writers on their lists."

The Nobel Prize

Apparently Coetzee had two very different reactions to winning the prize. Doris Lessing is friends with Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer and so was forewarned about what to expect in her Nobel year.


Coetzee was recently a member of the jury for the Estoril film festival in Portugal.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 1, 2008 9:51 AM.

Poem: Poets of the Tomb by Henry Lawson was the previous entry in this blog.

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