J. M. Coetzee

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Coetzee, J. M.

(John Maxwell Coetzee) (kö`tsē), 1940–, South African novelist, b. John Michael Coetzee. Educated at the Univ. of Cape Town (M.A. 1963) and the Univ. of Texas (Ph.D. 1969), he taught in the United States and returned home (1983) to become a professor of English literature at Cape Town. He immigrated to Australia in 2002, becoming a citizen there in 2006, and working as a research fellow at the Univ. of Adelaide. Several of Coetzee's novels are noted for their eloquent protest against political and social conditions in South Africa, particularly the suffering caused by imperialism, apartheidapartheid
[Afrik.,=apartness], system of racial segregation peculiar to the Republic of South Africa, the legal basis of which was largely repealed in 1991–92. History
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, and postapartheid violence. His books are also known for their technical virtuosity. Often melancholy and detached in tone and spare in style, his fiction treats themes of human violence and loss, weakness and defeat, and isolation and survival. His novels include In the Heart of the Country (1977); Waiting for the Barbarians (1982); the Man Booker Prize–winning Life and Times of Michael K (1983) and Disgrace (1999); The Master of Petersburg (1994); Elizabeth Costello (2003); Slow Man (2005); and Diary of a Bad Year (2007). The last three, written after his move to Australia, have Australian settings and show a more pronounced philosophical orientation. The Childhood of Jesus (2013) is a mysterious, ahistorical fable of a man and a child exiled in a stark, quasisocialist world; it forms a trilogy with The Schooldays of Jesus (2016) and The Death of Jesus (2020). Among Coetzee's other writings are an autobiographical trilogy—Boyhood (1997), Youth (2002), and the fictionalized Summertime (2009)—and several essay collections including the literary essays in Inner Workings (2007) and Late Essays: 2006–2017 (2018). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.


See D. Attwell, ed., Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews (1992); P. Auster and J. M. Coetzee, Here and Now: Letters, 2008–2011 (2013); studies by D. Penner (1989), D. Attwell (1993), G. Huggan and S. Watson, ed. (1996), D. Head (1997), S. Kossew, ed. (1998), D. Attridge (2004), M. Canepari-Labib (2005), J. Poynter, ed. (2006), L. Sikorska, ed. (2006), L. Wright (2006), and A. Leist and P. Singer (2010).

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The introduction to this collection of essays on the writing of Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee begins, curiously, with a defense of literary criticism and theory.
For the second time in a row now, after Imre Kertesz last year, the Swedish Academy has made a splendid and pleasant choice in awarding the 2003 Nobel to J. M. Coetzee, as in past years the aesthetic honor of the Nobel Prize got lost from time to time.