J. M. Coetzee is one of the most renowned yet elusive authors of our time. Now, in J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing, David Attwell explores the extraordinary creative process behind Coetzee's work, from Dusklands to The Childhood of Jesus . Read more...
J. M. Coetzee is one of the most renowned yet elusive authors of our time. Now, in J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing, David Attwell explores the extraordinary creative process behind Coetzee's work, from Dusklands to The Childhood of Jesus. Drawing on Coetzee's manuscripts, notebooks and research papers housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Attwell reveals the fascinating ways in which Coetzee's famous novels developed, sometimes through more than fifteen drafts. He convincingly shows that Coetzee's work is strongly autobiographical, and that his writing proceeds with never-ending self-reflection while it moves toward aesthetic detachment. Above all, Attwell argues, South Africa, with its history, language, landscape and conflicts, is much more present in his novels than we have realized.
Having worked closely with Coetzee onDoubling the Point, acollection of essays and interviews, Attwell is an engaging, authoritative source. J.M. Coetzee andThe Life of Writing is the first book-length study to make use of Coetzee's extensive archive. A fresh, engaging and moving take on one of the world's foremost literary figures, it is bound to change the way Coetzee is read."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-24
- Reviewer: Staff
Drawing on Coetzee’s manuscripts, notebooks, and other archival papers, his former student Attwell marches placidly through the South African novelist’s writings, from his debut, Dusklands (1974), to his most recent novel, The Childhood of Jesus (2013). Unsurprisingly, Attwell discovers that Coetzee’s fiction is heavily autobiographical, even when it strives for a sense of artistic detachment. In Dusklands, Coetzee situates himself and his family history against the history and cartography of colonial South Africa, searching to discover “whose fault I am.” Life & Times of Michael K (1983), whose outlaw title character is named for Kafka’s Josef K., takes place in South Africa’s mostly barren Karoo region. The bleak setting, a symbol for the barrenness of society, becomes a central motif in Coetzee’s work. Foe (1986) contains Coetzee’s feelings about both the injustices of colonialism and “failure of post-colonial nationalism.” Through his close readings of Coetzee’s manuscripts and other archival materials, Attwell provides a glimpse into the Nobel laureate’s creative process: much of Coetzee’s writing begins with the ordinary and continues onto a “determined process of deliteralization.” While fans of Coetzee will find little that’s new, Attwell’s study may entice readers unfamiliar with the author to pick up his novels for the first time. (Oct.)