J. M. Coetzee

THE LAUREATE: J. M. Coetzee was born in 1940 in Cape Town, South Africa. He was largely an academic, teaching in the United States and South Africa until his retirement to Adelaide, Australia, where he is an honorary professor of literature. In addition to his novels, he is a prominent translator of Dutch and Africaans literature, and holds a Ph.D. in Germanic linguistics.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH HIM: I read two of his books before this, Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace. I liked them well enough when I was reading them, but when I thought about them later, I was kind of squicked out by what a prominent role older male authority figures taking sexual advantages of young women play in their plots. I was a little worried about the book I’m reading, which is…

WHAT I’M READING: Diary of a Bad YearREVIEW: This is an odd one. Diary of a Bad Year is presented in two or three different sections. At the top of each page is part of a book of essays on a wide variety of subjects- ostensibly for a book to be published in Germany. The second section, in the middle of the page, is the author of the first section: a South African novelist, very famous, who has retired to Australia and sees a beautiful woman in the laundry room, who he eventually asks to be his secretary. The third section is told from the secretary’s perspective, about how her mind opens and she starts thinking about more than how she can turn heads and look good in expensive clothing.

RECOMMENDED: Yes, and I think I’ll be going back to reread some of Coetzee’s other work.

WHAT’S NEXT: Buying a Fishing Rod For My Grandfather, by Gao Xingjian

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