coetzee dressed up


It is the third in a trilogy of books relating the life, from childhood to his 30s, of a writer named “John Coetzee”. Boyhood (1997) and Youth (2002), are written in a free indirect third person that appears to offer an observation window into the unfolding consciousness of their subject. The new volume, Summertime, consists of scraps of the author’s notebooks and transcripts of interviews compiled by Mr Vincent, an English biographer who is investigating the author’s return from London and America to the South Africa of the 1970s. His “Coetzee” resembles the Nobel prize-winning writer in many aspects, except he has died before the book begins. How is she meant to read this trilogy of “memoirs”? Summertime has, after all, just been long-listed for the Booker prize for fiction (the author has won the award twice, for Life and Times of Michael K in 1983 and Disgrace in 1999). The slip between these registers is troubling. On the one hand, the trilogy seems to promise her insights into the formative experiences and obsessions of this notoriously elusive author. Reading Boyhood, for example, she notes that his antipathy towards his Afrikaner heritage and over-attuned sense of shame appear precociously present, almost inborn.

more from Delia Falconer at The Australian here.