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summertime

Summertime is an inventive and inspired work of fiction that allows J.M. Coetzee to imagine his own life with a critical and unsparing eye, revealing painful moral struggles and attempts to come to grips with what it means to care for another human being.A young English biographer is researching a book about the late South African writer John Coetzee, focusing on Coetzee iSummertime is an inventive and inspired work of fiction that allows J.M. Coetzee to imagine his own life with a critical and unsparing eye, revealing painful moral struggles and attempts to come to grips with what it means to care for another human being.A young English biographer is researching a book about the late South African writer John Coetzee, focusing on Coetzee in his thirties, at a time when he was living in a rundown cottage in the Cape Town suburbs with his widowed father - a time, the biographer is convinced, when Coetzee was finding himself as a writer. Never having met the man himself, the biographer interviews five people who knew Coetzee well, including a married woman with whom he had an affair, his cousin Margot, and a Brazilian dancer whose daughter took English lessons with him. These accounts add up to an image of an awkward, reserved, and bookish young man who finds it hard to make meaningful connections with the people around him. Summertime is an inventive and inspired work of fiction that allows J.M. Coetzee to imagine his own life with a critical and unsparing eye, revealing painful moral struggles and attempts to come to grips with what it means to care for another human being. Incisive, elegant, and often surprisingly funny, Summertime is a compelling work by one of today's most esteemed writers....

Title : Summertime
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781846553189
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 266 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Summertime Reviews

  • Fabian
    2019-04-30 18:07

    The halo effect perfected to exquisite levels in "Elizabeth Costello" is once again employed to similar effect here. But this time, the writer's own persona is the protagonist-non grata. What is left behind is what's compiled in this magnificent (but flawed) work--another dynamite narrative by another dynamite author, about racism in latter-20th century South Africa. In this instance, people (women, mostly) are interviewed, their experience with John Coetzee explored. These tales are tragicomic, gorgeous in their concise vernacular, realistic in their anecdotal detail, and above all very astute, very piercing. The halo effect, to me, means that we are afforded glimpses, albeit of a very "human" human being (J. Coetzee, reclusive, pained, but intuitive auteur, prefame) through vastly different modes-- the squeezing of juice from every possible clue makes this effort an endearing one, often transcending the very story it is telling. Which is what happens here. Coetzee is the most CONSISTENT writer that I know of. This one is yet another one of his, to study, to truly, well, squeeze as much as one can from...Also, as years progress, it is awesome to see the tragedy level becoming a wee-bit more intertwined with scenes of joy, or experiences of true love, by the evolving writer. Now, there is some awesome metalit element to his literature, as he, in the absurdly-titled "Summertime," is actually DEAD. Basically, this may be one of the longest faux-eulogies of all time. & one of the most unforgettable; even the pronouncement of "Fictions" as a subheading for "Summertime" is a lie: Instead of being short, various tales this novel, alas, is a pretty complete one.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-05-04 17:17

    Onvan : Summertime - Nevisande : J.M. Coetzee - ISBN : 1846553180 - ISBN13 : 9781846553189 - Dar 266 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2009

  • brian
    2019-05-17 23:26

    late at night, absent people or drink, when it rages out in furnace fear, i think of you and whether it be simply that 1. misery loves company or 2. even though we do, indeed, die alone you remind me that we all do it so at least we're all connected in our aloneness -- your life and your words in some tiny tiny tiny way lessen the burden of existence. as with my dog, i know that you will most likely die long before i do and it kind of makes me want to eat the shotgun knowing i'll be living in a world without jack and without coetzee, but if i did that my parents would be destroyed so i'd have to kill them first and* if i killed my parents and then myself it'd really fuck up a whole bunch of people so i'd have to take out my sister and her husband and some others and it'd end up a real bloodbath and i couldn't very well do that. rian malan said: "A colleague who has worked with Coetzee for more than a decade claims to have seen him laugh just once. An acquaintance has attended several dinner parties where Coetzee has uttered not a single word."i love you so much john maxwell coetzee and even though your post-elizabeth costello novels have been pretty weak they make me love you even more than your earlier masterpieces (too tired to explain myself). despite your cool and austere exterior i relate to you and feel as close to you as anyone i've never met; you turn me into an 11 yr old boy creaming his jeans over britney or gaga. you put before us a picture of human cruelty in a way no one else has and try to fashion out of your own life an impossibly gentle life, a life absent of all human cruelty. you are a miserable failure. you are ridiculous and sad and seem built to die alone. and i love you because of, not in spite of, your failures. *as per the woodman

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-05-08 22:15

    Summertime (Scenes from Provincial Life #3), J.M. CoetzeeSummertime is a 2009 novel by South African-born Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee. It is the third in a series of fictionalized memoirs by Coetzee (the first two being Boyhood and Youth) and details the life of one John Coetzee from the perspective of five people who have known him. The novel largely takes place in the mid to late 1970s, largely in Cape Town, although there are also important scenes in more remote South African settings. While there are obvious similarities between the actual writer of the novel, J. M. Coetzee, and the subject of the novel, John Coetzee, there are some differences - most notably that the John Coetzee of the novel is reported as having died. Within the novel, the opinions and thoughts of the five people are compiled and interpreted by a fictitious biographer, who also adds fragments from John Coetzee's notebooks. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Booker Prize. Coetzee was already a two-time winner of the award and it is for this reason that literary commentator Merritt Moseley believes he did not win it for Summertime.تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و نهم ماه اکتبر سال 2016 میلادیعنوان: تابستان زندگی - سه گانه صحنه هایی از زندگی شهرستان - کتاب سوم؛ ؛ نویسنده: جی.ام. (جان مکسول) کوتسی؛ مترجم: نسرین طباطبایی؛ تهران، آینده درخشان، 1393؛ در 268 ص؛ شابک: 9786005527643؛ موضوع: داستانهای افریقایی انگلیسی - قرن 21 مبرنده نوبل ادبیات سال 2003 میلادی؛ نوعی زندگینامه و نیز داستان خیال انگیز است. برهه ای از زندگی کوتسی ست و صحبت با چند تن که او را نیک میشناختند. ا. شربیانی

  • PattyMacDotComma
    2019-04-25 00:19

    4.5★Admittedly I haven’t read the first two books of this fictionalised biography (auto-biography?) of a young man growing up in South Africa, Boyhood and Youth. I also haven’t read Disgrace, which won the Man Booker Prize in 1999 and sounds a lot like the story of the ‘late John Coetzee’ of this book – a professor leading a passionless life until he has an affair with a student (so says the blurb). The John of this book is also a Nobel Prize winner for literature, as is J.M. Even without those books as background, this is an interesting device, letting us travel with a biographer who’s researching the ‘late’ Coetzee’s life by interviewing people from his past whom he apparently noted himself were important to him. The various voices are different enough that it reads like real interviews and real scrawled notes.It is obvious to me, an armchair expert (yeah, right), that 'John' is a good example of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. All Aspies are different, but being socially awkward is reasonably common, and everyone describes John that way, although there's certainly more to Asperger's and to John than that. It’s also important to remember that if J.M. is writing about himself, he certainly understands his effect on others and writes about it cringingly well. The book is broken into sections, one for each interviewee, and we sense a thread running through the stories. They say he was an unremarkable man who held little real interest for them, and they’re not quite sure how they got involved with him in the first place or why he thinks they’re important. In fact, all are a little embarrassed about it. The women have an air of Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much methinks.” If he’s so dull, why do they keep saying things like "just one more story, and then I’m finished” ?Julia is first. She noticed him shopping, and doesn’t he sound like a real catch?“In appearance he was not what most people would call attractive. He was scrawny, he had a beard, he wore horn-rimmed glasses and sandals. He looked out of place, like a bird, one of those flightless birds; or like an abstracted scientist who had wandered by mistake out of his laboratory. There was an air of seediness about him too, an air of failure. I guessed there was no woman in his life, and it turned out I was right.”She says she is always conscious of when a man is looking at her, but she never once felt that about him. She met him only when he picked up her dropped rolls of wrapping paper and disconcertingly (to her) pressed them into her breast as he returned them. This felt so intimate, that while she intended to avoid him, she stalked him, seduced him, and had an affair. She still talks about him as if he’s dull, silly for wasting his life living with his ill father. But she keeps talking, and talking, and talking . . . about her husband, HIS affairs, her dissatisfaction, her bringing John into her household, her going to his ramshackle cottage and meeting his father. Julia does ramble on. He clearly made an impression, and she enjoyed the verbal sparring.“He ran his life according to principles, whereas I was a pragmatist. Pragmatism always beats principles; that is just the way things are. The universe moves, the ground changes under our feet; principles are always a step behind. Principles are the stuff of comedy. Comedy is what you get when principles bump into reality. I know he had a reputation for being dour, but John Coetzee was actually quite funny. A figure of comedy. Dour comedy. Which, in an obscure way, he knew, even accepted. That is why I still look back on him with affection. If you want to know.”And then she told him he ought to find a woman to look after him and get married. Cousin Margot is next, and she is embarrassed both by him and for him. They were children together, but as adults, she is uncomfortable with him (like everyone else). When they are stranded overnight in a truck, a farmer rescues them in the morning, and she speaks Afrikaans with him. It’s second-nature for her,“whereas the Afrikaans John speaks is stiff and bookish. Half of what John says probably goes over Hendrik’s head. ‘Which is more poetic, do you think, Hendrik: the rising sun or the setting sun? A goat or a sheep?’ ”She reckons her family’s days are numbered since the Koup. The Coetzees are all lazy, slack, spineless, yet she’d had higher hopes for John and his bookish ways.Her sister Carol finally spills the beans about John (some of which we know from earlier and some of which roughly matches J.M.’s history). She calls him “stuck-up”.“He lives with his father, but only because he has no money. He is thirty-something years old with no prospects. He ran away from South Africa to escape the army. Then he was thrown out of America because he broke the law. Now he can’t find a proper job because he is too stuck-up. The two of them live on a the pathetic salary his father gets from the scrapyard where he works.”When Margo asks John if he’s relieved to be back home after leaving America, he says “But practically speaking, what future do I have in this country, where I have never fitted in? Perhaps a clean break would have been better after all. Cut yourself free of what you love and hope that the wound heals.”The biographer interviews others, including one man, a colleague, who explains that they met and became friends when they applied for the same teaching position at the University of Cape Town. The biographer quotes from John’s own notes about himself and the interview, that he feels he's handled badly.“He has taken the question too literally, responding too briefly. . . They want something more leisurely, more expansive . . . whether he would fit in in a provincial university that is doing its best to maintain standards in difficult time, to keep the flame of civilization burning. In America, where they take job-hunting seriously, people like him, people who don’t know how to read the agenda behind a question, can’t speak in rounded paragraphs, don’t put themselves over with conviction—in short, people deficient in people skills – attend training sessions where they learn to look the interrogator in the eye, smile, respond to questions fully and with every appearance of sincerity. Presentation of the self: that is what they call it in America, without irony.”It’s a rambling, piece-meal collection of what sound like reminiscences and notes and embarrassing anecdotes, but by the end, I actually had a clear picture of an interesting man who was trapped by circumstance and escaped into his intellect.And if John is J.M., then I’m glad he moved to South Australia and became an Aussie.

  • Isabelle
    2019-05-12 16:27

    It has been a very long time since I read something that original... The premise of the book is so unusually incisive, so creative in itself... Coetzee writes his own biography, post his fictive death, as strung together through his notebooks and the interviews of some of his contemporaries.Behind the dry humor and subtle self-deprecation, there are some very serious underlying themes, mostly pertaining to life in South Africa in the 70's, Afrikaners, natives, Apartheid etc... but also dealing with elder parent care, teaching, and of course, writing as a pursuit and a process.I am so impressed by this book!

  • Aprile
    2019-04-19 19:24

    “Troppo freddo, troppo pulito direi. Troppo facile. Troppa poca passione, passione creativa. Tutto qui”Tempo d’estate conclude il ciclo dei romanzi biografici. Grandissima creazione letteraria: Coetzee è morto, un ipotetico biografo, Vincent, intervista cinque persone che sono state vicine allo scrittore: Julia, una amante; Margot, una cugina; Adriana, amore di Coetzee non ricambiato; Martin, un collega; Sophie, una collega con la quale ha avuto una relazione. E attraverso le parole di questo biografo che riporta le interviste a coloro che per un periodo hanno intrecciato le loro vite con quelle di C., Coetzee stesso scrive la propria biografia, cercando- o fingendo - di essere in questo modo il più obiettivo possibile. Emerge subito la tematica principale, al di là delle vicende quotidiane: la creazione letteraria riesce ad esprimere la realtà in modo fedele o in quanto opera letteraria ha vita propria? Ciò che è auspicabile è che il racconto, anche se non può essere vero alla lettera, lo sia nello spirito? Come possiamo fidarci del resoconto e delle interviste? Gli intervistati, interrogati su una persona di loro conoscenza, non potrebbero essere tutti “inventori di storie”? Non tende ognuno ad evidenziare cose che ad altri potrebbero essere sfuggite o che per altri potrebbero avere scarsa importanza? In ogni racconto c’è sempre troppo della persona che racconta e di quella che riporta. Gli intervistati, quando riascoltano le loro parole trascritte dal biografo, spesso non riconoscono la propria voce o i fatti raccontati, sembra loro quasi un’altra storia. Dando voce a cinque punti di vista differenti, C. vuole fornire una gamma di testimonianze indipendenti che partono da prospettive indipendenti. Ma è proprio qui la finzione letteraria. Non esiste alcun biografo, e forse non esistono neppure le persone intervistate (non so se siano state presenze reali nella vita di C. o se le abbia create di sana pianta), a parlare è Coetzee stesso, sempre Coetzee, che con vera spietatezza e consapevolezza si rivela al lettore, anche nelle sue pieghe più intime. Non teme il giudizio del lettore, mette in costante dubbio il proprio valore non solo come artista, ma come uomo. Fa dire ad Adriana : “Signor Vincent, ai suoi occhi John Coetzee è un grande scrittore e un eroe, io lo accetto… Per me, invece – mi perdoni se glielo dico, ma è morto e quindi non posso ferire i suoi sentimenti – per me non è nulla… soltanto un motivo di irritazione, di imbarazzo. Non era nulla e le sue parole non erano nulla… per me era davvero uno stupido. Quanto alle sue lettere, scrivere lettere ad una donna non dimostra che la si ami. Quest’uomo non era innamorato di me, era innamorato di una qualche idea di me, di qualche fantasia di un’amante latina che si era creato nella mente. Vorrei che al posto mio avesse trovato un’altra scrittrice, un’altra persona fantasiosa di cui innamorarsi. Avrebbero potuto essere felici a fare l’amore tutto il giorno con le loro idee l’uno dell’altro”. Ancora la dicotomia tra arte e vita, artista e uomo, accomunate dal comune atteggiamento di C. nei loro confronti, quel distacco indicato dalla citazione nel titolo di queste righe. E ancora: "...ma era davvero un grande scrittore? Perché, per come la penso io, il talento per le parole non basta se si vuole diventare un grande scrittore. Bisogna essere anche un grande uomo. Lui era un uomo piccolo, un uomo privo di importanza." Però, dico io, sarà anche stato piccolo come uomo, ma come artista ha vinto il Nobel. Che sia possibile, quindi, separare vita e arte? E poi, nell’intervista a Martin - altra presenza maschile insieme al biografo e al fantasma di Coetzee – si svela il fulcro sia della vita di uomo che di artista: “…io e lui condividevamo la stessa posizione sul Sudafrica, cioè sulla nostra presenza in quel paese. Era illegittima. Magari avevamo un diritto astratto di starci, un diritto di nascita, ma su basi fraudolente. La nostra esistenza si fondava su un crimine, precisamente la conquista coloniale, perpetuato dall’apartheid. Ci sentivamo proprio il contrario dei nativi, degli indigeni. Visitatori, residenti temporanei e in questo senso senza casa, senza patria”. Da qui la fuga, il ritorno, e la nuova partenza. Coetzee vive ancora, vegeto, in Australia, con relativa cittadinanza. Forse unico esemplare di uomo freddo che mi abbia in qualche modo interessato.

  • Phrynne
    2019-05-17 16:28

    What an odd book. The author writes it as though he is someone else writing his biography after his death. Parts of it were very strange and parts of it were hard to understand. As someone who was living in South Africa in the late 70's I really enjoyed the African references and being able to practice the little Afrikaans I still remember. Apart from that though I guess I was not really enamoured of the book although I feel encouraged to maybe try another of his books in the near future.

  • J
    2019-05-04 20:06

    Apparently this is the third of a type of trilogy. I did not know that. I bought it because it was short. Sorry, John. I was on vacation at the beach. It was called Summertime. It was available in paperback and I was low on cash. What I got when I began to read was infinitely more. There are some books that affect us so deeply the $15.00 price seems ludicrous. Admittedly, I am a lousy fan. There are few authors whose complete works I’ve read, no matter how much I admire their writing. Fewer still about whom I know anything personal. Summertime is a fictionalized biography. Interviews for a biography and notes written by the subject himself, really; an unfinished work. This furthers the impression of looking in on a life – the naturalness of it, the side of biographies we don’t normally see. It’s an engaging portrait of a man, a writer, an artist, possibly even Coetzee himself. All those things. It’s wise and beautiful and wry and, if not a strictly factual account of his life, perhaps it gives a truer glimpse of him. For what great writer writes anything without showing us something of themselves?One of the things I do know about him is his famed evasiveness. He seems disturbed by the rockstar writer phenomenon and plays with that here. The biographer interviews the women that have most impacted the great author’s life. What indelible mark did he leave on their own? Disappointment. He was only a man. A man who was more alive within himself, than out. He couldn’t dance. To express himself without words – lots and lots of words – was nearly impossible. Yet he rarely spoke. The painful awkwardness of being human is captured perfectly as he seems to slyly poke fun at both himself and the rest of us. The women are repeatedly referred to as “his conquests” or “his women”, but it’s clear in each case that it’s him who has been conquered. As they speak of their relations with him, detailing his failings, they reveal more of themselves and their own shortcomings. That’s not to say they’re unlikable. More real. They’re strong, self-determined women, both touched and frustrated by this man. He speaks a different language, figuratively. And so he can be no more to them than South Africa in flux – transitory, impermanent. Disappointment. They move on. The one constant, from beginning to end, is his father. Always in his mind, his memory, the reality of caring for him… always a silent presence in his relationships with women. For that reason the story feels like an apology. To the women who never knew how much they meant to him. And to his father, for trying to live while he is dying.

  • Vestal McIntyre
    2019-05-17 17:16

    After Boyhood and Youth, I expected another searing self-portrait told in calm and beautifully measured third-person. What I got is autobiography in quite a revolutionary form: the women who knew Coetzee in his early thirties are interviewed about the now-dead author. Utterly engaging, filled with awkward intimacy and painful slip-ups, Summertime is the best book in the trilogy, the best book I've read in a year.Another interesting aspect of the book: so many "greats" have written their portraits of the artists as young men -- Goethe, Flaubert, Joyce, and Coetzee himself spring to mind. But I've never read a self-examination focusing on this point -- beyond youth, "young-manhood", I suppose -- the trials by fire after self-awareness has cemented and the moral compass has been set, but before artistic recognition occurs.

  • Domenico Fina
    2019-04-25 17:10

    Un libro molto bello, forse il suo più bello. Coetzee immagina che alla sua morte un ricercatore intenzionato a scrivere un libro su di lui vada ad intervistare le donne che lo hanno conosciuto quando aveva circa trent'anni e viveva a Città del Capo. Ne scaturisce il ritratto vagamente comico di un uomo timoroso, senza talento, impacciato nelle relazioni con le donne (uno che voleva fare l'amore armonizzando i movimenti con la musica di Schubert e le donne lo guardavano come si guarda un pazzo). Coetzee non sta dicendo che quella non è la verità o che è soltanto un punto di vista di alcune persone che lo hanno conosciuto parzialmente. Sta dicendo che non ci si conosce come ci si aspetta. Ci si conosce incidentalmente, nelle fratture comuni. Fuori tempo. Ci sono esperienze che non capiteranno e se non capitano non potranno rivelare parti di noi che restano nascoste o mai nate. Non possiamo dire "io ero quello che ero se fosse capitato questo o quello". E le parole per raccontare non basta dire che siano inesatte o mancanti, sono sempre un'altra realtà. Complicano talvolta le cose. Per Wittgenstein quando ci si trova sul ghiaccio bisogna rigenerare l'attrito con i fatti. Bisogna provocare le cose quando non accadono, ma anche questo indurre le cose non basta a conoscerci, a comunicare, a manifestare un io raggiera. Molti affermano che col corpo si capisce. Col corpo si sente, si gode, ci si sfama, si sospendono le cose. Si fa metafisica.

  • Teresa
    2019-05-09 16:24

    I normally write a review the day after I've finished a book, long enough to coalesce my thoughts, short enough for it not to feel nagging. Because I read this for a group read and felt so lukewarm (is that an oxymoron?) about it, I put off the review, hoping I would get more out of the book after the discussion. That didn't happen.I don't usually say 'how' I wish a book to be, as I don't usually think it's my place as reader to do so; but I can't help feeling with this one that I wish Coetzee had been just a touch less evasive. The notebooks, interviews, undated fragments -- they all add up to too much distancing, especially for what should be such an intimate topic.I wasn't bored while reading the book: it's well-written after all (though when I went back to reread it, thinking I might see what others had seen, I couldn't get past the first section), but I kept thinking it was going somewhere and then it wouldn't. I'm sure that was intentional, but I didn't find that it made for great literature, unlike, say, Disgrace. Even though Disgrace arguably has a Coetzee persona as its narratorial voice too, I think its main character stands on its own, unlike the John of this book.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-04-22 00:13

    St Peter's and St Paul's Parish Church, Lavenham, book saleHere is Coetzee writing as if Coetzee is dead and now Vincent is asking around to find out about people's feelings about the dead man.Height of self-indulgent conceit? Well yes, only this is fiction and there is a lot revealed about South Africa in the 70s.Sound confusing? It isn't, really not. I did take breathers in between the sections to mull over the underlying story of a country and attitude in change. 4* Waiting for the Barbarians1* FoeWL Dusklands3* Summertime

  • ΠανωςΚ
    2019-05-01 22:09

    «Καθηλωτικό, αστείο, συγκινητικό, γεμάτο ζωή» είναι το σχόλιο του Observer που φιγουράρει στο εξώφυλλο. Κι εγώ έκλαιγα. Ποτάμι -όχι του Θεοδωράκη- τα δάκρυα. Από το ασταμάτητο χασμουρητό. Φιλάρεσκο μυθιστόρημα: ένας συγγραφέας, που δεν βλέπει πέρα από τη μύτη του, γράφει ένα μυθιστόρημα για έναν τύπο που γράφει τη βιογραφία του νεκρού πλέον συγγραφέως. Δηλαδή, για να μη φαίνεται ότι περιαυτολογεί, εφευρίσκει έναν τύπο να μιλάει για τον Κουτσί όπως θα μίλαγε ο Κουτσί αν ήθελε και καλά να κάνει σκληρή αυτοκριτική, τέτοια που να εντυπωσιάσει τους τρίτους με την άνεσή της. Δεν έχω διαβάσει πιο επίπεδο, άνευρο, άοσμο, άχρωμο μυθιστόρημα στη ζωή μου. Για να καταλάβεις, από τη μέση και μετά άρχισα να διαβάζω τα κεφάλαια από το τέλος στην αρχή και, ναι, πράγματι, έτσι απέκτησε ένα κάποιο ενδιαφέρον. Ισως θα έπρεπε να το διαβάσω εξ ολοκλήρου από το τέλος στην αρχή για να με αρέσει. (με τη διαρκή υποσημείωση, που ισχύει για όλα τα βιβλία, ότι στην αποτυχημένη σχέση μεταξύ αναγνώστη - συγγραφέα δεν φταίει πάντα ο συγγραφέας αλλά μπορεί να φταίει και ο αναγνώστης -δηλ. μπορεί εγώ να μην κατάλαβα τίποτε από το Θέρος ή μπορεί να ήμουν σε κατάλληλη διάθεση για να το διαβάσω.)

  • Trevor
    2019-05-19 18:29

    This novel started off with a lot of promise, but as it progressed the story disintegrated and became very piecemeal and lacking as a complete narrative.The premise of telling the biography of the fictional(?) novelist John Coetzee from different perspective was an interesting one, but from my perspective was in the end unsuccessful and confusing, in particular the section told from Adriana's perspective.I'm still not sure hpw much of the novel is fiction or fact, perhaps this is the feeling that you are supposed to be left with, I don't know.Overall a bit of a disappointing read.

  • Jason Coleman
    2019-05-11 00:02

    Coetzee's Scenes from a Provincial Life is turning into one of the weirdest memoir projects ever. Apart from his decision to mix fiction with fact, and the obvious confusion over what is true and what isn't, there is also the public-humiliation aspect of these books. Coetzee really knows how to take himself down a peg: in this latest installment he can't fix a car, can't dance, can't cook, is a poor lover (and, worse, a strange one), has a messy house, a bad haircut, and persists in a teaching career for which he has no special gift. It even rains on his picnic, literally rains on it. All those things that turn you off a person are embodied in John Coetzee. As one woman puts it, he isn't like a real man; he's like one of those priests who seems a perpetual boy, and then one day you find he's suddenly become old. Somehow this wretch managed to pick up a Nobel Prize.With another writer I might get infuriated with this approach: underneath the masochism, it suggests a control freak who anticipates every criticism--who who wants to tear himself down before anyone else does: "Look, I'll show you how to do it." But I know Coetzee to be a compassionate, empathetic writer; this portrait of a cold fish cannot be the whole truth. So what's going on here?While many of the elements here are completely made up, a certain residue is left over that, I have no doubt, reflects the reality. This was true of the earlier volumes as well. The shape and taste of the life is there, even if the facts are all wrong. We're left suspecting that the artist, who is heroic, has lived deep inside himself--a sentient iceberg that, all these years later, is still worried over the disappointment and confusion he feels he has caused. Coetzee relieves the memoir of all its boring facts, just as he relieves the novel of all its tiresome artifice, to create the only possible answer for his solitude.

  • Stephanie
    2019-04-20 00:03

    Review 1 of 1: StephanieYou've had the chance to read the book 'Summertime.' What did you think of it?Honestly, not much. I think it either went totally over my head or I just didn't like the anemic tone. And I didn't feel that the "inventive" storytelling worked. The author was trying to give an objective viewpoint about his life as a young man (warts and all) in South Africa in the 70s, but it's not objective and it's not, to me, great writing.He is, in fact, a Nobel prize winner in literature, but let's move on. Explain what you mean by "inventive" storytelling?Coetzee tried to create the un-autobiography by writing about himself, but through a third person, a fictional journalist, who is writing about Coetzee after his death (get it?). But the fact still remains that this is a pseudo autobiography - but not "real". Are the people and events real? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It's an ambiguous cloud of detachment. Do you think he did want to be detached, hence the method?Yes, he seems like a very detached person! (slight laugh). Little to no emotion toward people, or toward writing. No melodrama (which, for a change, is nice). This is the first book I've written by him and perhaps if I had some more books to compare this with, I would talk about 'Summertime' very differently. I'd imagine that the emotional punch comes not from the words, per se, but from his standoffish construction of emotional events. I heard you never forget about his books once you read them - but for me this hasn't been the case. How can you be emotionally detached from what happened in South Africa during Apartheid? He probably felt a lot, but needed to step back and look at them from a less reactive point of view. Or maybe he just simply isn't emotional. A tabula rosa everyday.He did show some emotion with his acquaintances. What did you think of their observations of Coetzee?"Well, again, they were Coetzee's observations of himself, not others sizing him up. And by using the very word "acquaintances" you revealed something right there -- he didn't have long-lasting friendships. Even his relatives didn't seem to connect with him, nor did his lovers (and boy, what a way to depict yourself -- as a dull, plain lover and a somewhat obsessed wanna-be lover). [Silence.:]My favorite "interview" as it were, was with his cousin Margot. That was the longest interview/chapter and the most intriguing. It touched about his childhood, his awkward return to South Africa, and his interactions with his put-your-head-in-the-sand family who could not accept the fact that the country was changing. A few events in the Margot chapter also revealed his bad judgment, which seems to arise due to his guilt about many things. Guilt and detachment. Strange bedfellows.You said that in our previous interview that, and I quote "All literature has strange bedfellows."Oh, I never said that! You're putting words into my mouth. OK, I'll tone that down a bit in the final version. Do you think you'll read another book by Coetzee?If the bookclub deems it so, then I will. Anything else you want to say?Yes, if you're going to quote me, can I review the text before you publish it?Only if you receive your autobiographer's approval first.Interview conducted in San Francisco, CAin April 2010.

  • Kristen
    2019-04-22 18:11

    Mr. Coetzee, how many more books will it take to forgive yourself the original sin of your birth?(Man, do I love short books, I'm incredibly fucking lazy, just spit it out already. Coetzee understands that!)

  • Robert
    2019-05-10 21:22

    Summertime by J.M. Coetzee is labeled "fiction," not "a novel," or "a collection of autobiographical investigations disguised as a story cycle," or some other generic propositon. Just "fiction." Ok, it goes this way: there is a biographer, an academic, who goes through the deceased John Coetzee's notebooks and focuses a lot of effort on five extended interviews with four women and one man who were important in Coetzee's life. Two of the women were sexually involved with him; one was a cousin; one did everything she could not to accept his advances. The man is presented as a literary friend, an academic.Spun out at novel-length, this manuscript effectively uses the apparent nonentity of John Coetzee as he saw (sees) himself in the form of a blank canvas upon which the five interviewees can talk about themselves. We learn more about them than him. About him we learn he's resevered or shy, well but generally educated, something of a utopian, something of a romantic, a dutiful son who dislikes being a dutiful son when his father's health begins to break down…and so on.About the interviewees we learn that they managed to live without receiving a great deal from the likes of John Coetzee. We hear about their affairs, their childhoods, their complications living in South Africa, and the limits of being human. One denounces Coetzee; one finds him a family misfit; one had some good times with him…The book goes on this way.The notion that this is Coetzee fictionalizing Coetzee while also probing for that elusive being--the author "behind" the books--isn't overplayed as Philip Roth would overplay it. There's no grand theory as to the interpenetration of the real and the fictional, or their interchangeability. As a consequence, the articulate documentary quality of Summertime, a title whose meaning eludes me, feels thin. This is an idea book by a writer who can take just about any idea and do something highly professional with it. It's not a lot more than that. It lacks heat, plot, cunning, and a willingness to do more by way of introspection than put the author across as as something of an introverted clutz.I haven't read it in a while, but I recall John Updike's memoir in essayistic fragments, Self-Consciousness, as a great deal more engaging and enlightening. He does his best to tell "the truth" about himself, a very hard thing to do. Coetzee, on the other hand, skillfully diddles with the post-modern notion that the author, Coetzee, isn't the point, his political views aren't the point, his lack of engagement with women isn't the point…the point is in his books, and this book, a fiction, isn't really a book, it's a thematic exploration…but of what?The other day a friend asked me about a book we were discussing, "But don't you think it's well-written?" I said, "Yes, of course, the sentences are solid, the pace is good, the imagery is appropriate…but there's something to fiction that goes beyond that." I meant that fiction must have an internal dynamic and objective that is more than skill in managing words.Late in this book, a former colleague tells the interviewer that where Coetzee fell short was in not taking chances, in deferring to the precepts of genre, in not wrecking conventional expections in the interests of passion. The larger reference here was to Russian writers of the 19th century--Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, I would think. Since Coetzee is playing the character being interviewed about him, it appears he has understood his own limitations well.What's truly curious is that Summertime was "a finalist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize," which we hear about all the time as Great Britain's highest literary award. Why? Because even though a book about Coetzee by Coetzee isn't alive, it still deserves to be on such lists…because Coetzee is Coetzee?I'm not trying to damn the book, just put it in perspective. It's sort of a readable, articulate book on a par with middle-grade wine, which is okay on a weekend when you're looking for a way to pass the time.For a collection of my comments on contemporary fiction, see Tuppence Reviews (Kindle).

  • Nancy Oakes
    2019-04-22 20:22

    The premise of Summertime is that award-winning writer John Coetzee is dead, and someone named Vincent is writing a book about his life in the 1970s. Vincent has decided to interview several women purportedly close to Coetzee, wanting to know what he was like, if there were any sordid details to be had, etc. etc. The book, he says, will be written in the women's own words and they will have the final say in what he actually publishes. But this is not the case; for example, we know that the John Coetzee's cousin Margot's story has been embellished because Vincent lets us know that at the beginning. He makes additions and omissions, going with what he thinks the public wants to know about the subject of his biography. In reality, of course, Vincent is really only an invented character in a novel, interviewing other invented characters in a novel, so what we're really looking at here is Coetzee telling a story, ostensibly about himself, through several fictional intermediaries. And considering that in the book John Coetzee is dead, well,you certainly don't know which details are true and which are not. He is presented as being a rather cold fish, hopeless with women, misunderstood, a failure, and someone with his head in the past. And then there is his gloomy outlook on life -- dark enough that he actually spent some writing a list of 'Ways of Doing Away with Oneself'. With this background, truly, it seems that all Coetzee has left with which to redeem himself and his life is his writing. But it's the writing itself that is not discussed in Vincent's book in any great detail, even though Coetzee is the recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature. It seems to me (and I'm not a professional critic, just a reader) that the nature of truth is often elusive and more importantly, it's often subjective, especially in the case of a biography. If there's any real way to know the truth about Coetzee, it's through his writing and everything else is really secondary. Writers of his caliber should be remembered for their art rather than for any of their foibles or follies, and not through the eyes of others who quite possibly really didn't understand them. Since we don't know where the truth ends and begins in this book, it's the real Coetzee's overall talent and his art that we have to come back to in the long run.Summertime is a wonderful book that will leave you thinking about it long after you've put it down. I can most highly recommend it as a very well-written and thought provoking novel.

  • Matthew
    2019-04-27 23:16

    I'll be honest: I haven't cared much for Coetzee's work in the last ten years or so. I've been of the opinion that he peaked with Disgrace; his recent novels have been filled with intrusive and barely-veiled author surrogates (especially Elizabeth Costello) who tend to derail an otherwise engrossing narrative. It was a pleasure, then, to discover that Coetzee has taken that conceit and turned it on it's head here. By writing about his life as being examined by a hagiographic biographer, Coetzee turns an almost painfully unflinching eye on his own life, this time without the cover of a fictional character (though I have no idea whether or not the people interviewed about him within the book are real individuals or not). For an author not generally known for his humor (in person or fiction), Coetzee does an often very funny job of - as the British say - taking the piss out of himself. Though it's not the equal to his magnificent Disgrace (a book which just destroys me every time I read it), or even on the level of the prescient Waiting for the Barbarians, I can see why this was nominated for the Booker Prize. The final section is among the most heartbreaking things I have ever read.

  • Bill
    2019-04-26 23:32

    This is the most thinly disguised autobiographical fiction I have ever read. In fact I would hesitate to call it fiction at all. The only fictional element seems to be that Coetzee is suppposedly dead in this "novel".Still makes for interesting reading though. And he doesn't paint a very flattering picture of himself. I'll have to read Boyhood and Youth now, which are his other two autobiographical novels.

  • Barbara Wahl
    2019-05-16 19:08

    tempi freddi"In generale direi che la sua opera manca di ambizione. Il controllo degli elementi è troppo ferreo (...) Troppo freddo, troppo pulito direi. Troppo facile. Troppa poca passione. Tutto qui."E' quello che dice Coetzee di sé stesso nell'audace "Tempo d'estate" dove scrive da sedicente autore morto quello che altri dicono di lui. E' feroce nello sminuirsi, scientifico nel descriversi incrociando i diversi sguardi di chi lo ha conosciuto -per lo più donne che non lo hanno amato- e di chi lo sta studiando -l'intervistatore- commovente nel definitivo "ritratto di giovane scrittore" che ci dipinge: un fallito, freddo, disperato giovane/vecchio uomo. Al termine, della lettura, sgomento, il lettore si chiede in quale misura Coetzee lo ha indotto in errore; dobbiamo dunque credergli ed accettare l'immagine di quell'uomo scostante, debole, incapace di amare che a trent'anni vive con suo padre perché altri non ha? o dobbiamo ammirare chi è capace di scrivere (come nessun'altro che io sappia prima di lui) un'autobiografia postuma ferocissima, impietosa, quasi non di lui si trattasse, ma del suo peggior nemico?Un uomo si guarda, si giudica, non si piace e prende le distanze. Ma quest'uomo è lo scrittore?Intrigata, prendo un altro testo di Coetzee, Foe, citato proprio nelle pagine di "Tempo d'estate" e trovo di nuovo un autoritratto, questa volta si tratta di Cruso, un naufrago, fratello strettissimo di Robinson Crusoe e dell'autore, un uomo che si è costruito la vita sull'isola e non vuole essere portato via, un uomo che muore proprio quando lo vengono a salvare, lasciando ad una donna non amerovole tutto ciò che abbia mai posseduto ossia "la storia della sua isola".

  • Carl Rollyson
    2019-04-22 16:02

    Novelists enjoy taking revenge on biographers. A typical example of this phenomenon is William Golding’s The Paper Men (1984), in which a biographer is featured as a snoop digging through his subject’s kitchen pail. Only in rare instances do biographers not come off as second-raters and sensationalists, as in Bernard Malamud’s Dubin’s Lives (1979). But no writer of distinction has definitively challenged the line Henry James laid down in The Aspern Papers (1888), where the biographer is dismissed as a “publishing scoundrel.” Thus J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime is quite a surprise.Rather than focusing on the unseemly prying biographer—a young Englishman named only as Vincent, about whom we learn very little—the subject, Coetzee himself (or rather his fictional persona, since the Coetzee of the novel is deceased) draws most of the fire. The biographer’s interviewees, who represent quite a range of ages, nationalities, genders, and occupations, come to remarkably similar conclusions about Coetzee: He was not much of a lover and did not demonstrate the genius that would be expected of a Nobel Prize winner. “Women didn’t fall for him,” reports Dr. Julia Frankl, who had an affair with the writer. His cousin Margot Jonker wonders what happened to the brilliant boy she once loved and why he has become a drifter living with his father. To Adrianna Nascimento, a Brazilian woman who spurned Coetzee’s advances, he is a fool and hardly a man at all. But wait! It gets worse: Sophie Denoël, one of Coetzee’s colleagues who taught a course with him, concludes he is an overrated writer devoid of originality.The interviews make powerful, compelling reading because the voices are so distinctive. The biographer rarely interjects himself. He asks questions and occasionally responds to his interviewee’s queries, fending off their hostile comments about biographers as gossip-mongers by blandly announcing that they can excise whatever they deem inappropriate from his narrative. The only male interviewee, Martin, is concerned that Vincent’s interest in Coetzee’s personal life will come “at the expense of the man’s actual achievement as a writer.” But this objection is raised perfunctorily and does not merit the attention some reviewers give it as an example of the novel’s supposedly anti-biographical theme.Quite often the biographer maintains silence in the face of provocative comments calling his integrity into question. He is there to get the story and remains thoroughly professional. As a result, so much of the palaver about the indiscretions of biographers seems petty—especially compared to this engrossing investigation of how friends, family, and lovers assess the man they knew. They are far harder on him than any biographer could possibly be.Coetzee has used himself—or should we say a simulacrum of himself—to show that biography has a powerful a story to tell, regardless of who is hurt and whose privacy is violated. Coetzee seems an anomaly among modern authors, many of whom put their energies into thwarting biographers and trashing the genre. In contrast, Coetzee addresses the profound human need biography satisfies. It is as if he said to himself, “I cannot control what others have thought of me. In fact, there is a pattern of such reactions that some biographer is bound to shape into a narrative. So why not take a whack at it myself?”For Coetzee, the biographer is not the issue. In Summertime, we do not even learn Vincent’s full name, let alone the experiences that led him to pick his subject— his motivations are not the point. On the contrary, Coetzee seems to realize that he has drawn the world to himself, and the world will find him out. A biography is not something he owes the public; it is just inevitable, no matter what he does and no matter what kind of life he has fashioned.In so far as the biographer does present a brief for his work, it is mainly this idea that Coetzee belongs to the world and no permission or authorization is required to write Coetzee’s life. The biographer tells this to one of his wary informants, but at the same time he acknowledges that each of his interviewees knew Coetzee in a particular way and that he wants to preserve their memories. At first, it may seem that Vincent is ceding too much when he agrees to omit certain stories, but the overall pattern of the testimony is so persuasive that eliminating this or that iteration of it hardly matters.Is this novel a disguised autobiography? The question seems to be dismissed in Summertime when Vincent remarks that Coetzee was a “fictioneer”: “In his letters he is making up a fiction of himself for his correspondents; in his diaries he is doing much the same for his own eyes, or perhaps for posterity.” Such comments level the playing field on which biography and autobiography are the contestants. In effect, there is no unimpeachable standard of truth by which a biography can be found wanting. Thus the extracts from the fictive Coetzee’s notebooks do nothing to undermine the biographer’s work.Summertime is that rare novel that grants biography its autonomy and treats the biographer as an independent agent, not a parasite or a hanger-on to someone else’s life. It is also a work of fiction that perhaps will break the mold Henry James cast for biography, one that has bedeviled its practitioners for more than a century.

  • Tony
    2019-04-18 20:20

    Coetzee, J. M. SUMMERTIME. (2009). ****. I have been in a room where different writers were discussing the relative merits of writing in the first person or in the third person. Mr. Coetzee goes them one better. In this fictionalized autobiography, he uses both voices once removed. A young English writer is doing research for a limited biography of Coetzee for the period 1971-1979. In his research he interviews several people who were involved, in one way or another, with the author during this period. He is not able to interview the author directly since he is already dead. During the period under study, Coetzee was living in Capetown and was doing a variety of jobs while writing poetry. He was also looking after his father who was reaching a stage of senility that required outside assistance. Through the biographer to be (Mr. Vincent), we meet five people who are willing to share their stories and experiences with Coetzee in response to the questions asked. The interviews were rather free-wheeling, but attempted to get at the basic Coetzee ethic. Four of these interviewees were women; one a man. The first was Julia, a married woman – at the time – who had an affair with the author. The affair was rather casual and was the result of boredom on Julia’s part since her husband was away from home frequently – and was also up to extramarital activities. She describes John as mostly not being there, emotionally and sexually. It was as if he was too far removed from the mundane activities of normal people to participate in their activities. She had read one of his books since then, but didn’t follow up with any of the others. Margot, John’s cousin, was close to John when they were children, but had been separated for a long time by their individual lives. When they meet again – at the time – John is in the midst of caring for his father and also considering moving out of Capetown into a shack in the country. It would be cheaper to live there and his father, he said, would be more comfortable. Margot tried to point out the fallacy in John’s thinking, and in the process learned the probable real reason for his intended move. He wanted to be alone in order to think better. Living with his father was invading his privacy to the point that he could no longer organize his thoughts. He also tried to explain to Margot the differences between the country and the city vis-a-vis race relations and the dignity of man. Adriana was a fiesty Brazilian woman who had lived in Capetown for a while, along with her two daughters. Her encounter with John was as the English tutor for her daughters. Although not strictly a teacher, Coetzee would spend time – on an hourly basis – with students who wanted to improve their English. The relationship between John and Adriana was firely confrontational. She felt that he had designs on his daughters and did all in her power to get him out of their lives. It gives us a chance, however, to get an idea of Coetzee’ philosophy of teaching – different from the ones in play at the time. Two other past acquaintences, Martin, a teacher at the University who got his position in preference to John, and Sophie, a French instructor at the school who taught a course in tandem with John – and had a sexual liaison with him. Both of these former friends portrayed John as a good man and a good – though perhaps not great – writer. Through all of these interviews, Coetzee manages to provide a picture of his fictionalized self – as he would like us to see him – in a unique way, and moves this autobiography forward in time from his previous works. Recommended.

  • Shane
    2019-05-08 17:29

    When a writer makes himself the subject of a biography written by a fictitious biographer, and when those who are being interviewed for the record are mainly the women in his life, both lovers and despisers, all of whom did not think much of him as a man, one wonders whether the writer is building a monument to himself or placing himself under the microscope of public scrutiny. But given that this book is of the writer’s creation, one also wonders whether the fault lines on display are carefully chosen and whether other, more embarrassing ones, have been deliberately left out.In this book, set between the years 1972-76, before he received international acclaim for his writing, Coetzee is in his thirties, and is very much the non-entity; expelled from America for protesting the Vietnam War, he is living with his ailing father back in Cape Town. Single, under-employed as an English teacher, unkempt and unattractive to women, he does not provide any hint of the Nobel prize winning author he will eventually turn out to be. All he wants to do is write poetry. He hates teaching, the profession he will ultimately spend forty-plus years in. He is unable to give of himself, because he needs to preserve his energy for his art. He believes in manual labour, because that makes him feel like the “others,” and so he is seen building a concrete support wall around his father’s crumbling house – the only white man sweating it out in the heat, a place normally reserved for blacks and coloureds. He has no friends but holds firm views on the world: politics is a theatre for hatred, nothing is worth fighting for, the true natives of South Africa are the coloureds with the whites and blacks being the interlopers, and so on, he philosophises. The “biographer” travels around the world to interview five people (four women and a man) who all had a relationship, sexual, familial or collegial with the author who is supposedly dead at this time after having achieved global fame. Their dispersion around the planet is a reflection of the mass migrations out of South Africa that took place in the Apartheid years and later; Coetzee himself ultimately settled in Australia. “Don’t speak ill of the dead” does not apply here for those interviewed are candid on Coetzee’s inconsequence and lack of accomplishment during these wilderness years. There are additional undated notes in Coetzee’s notebooks to assist the biographer, in which the subject prefers to write of himself in the third person. The life of a famous writer is always of interest to readers and to other aspiring writers. But I wondered why Coetzee choses to focus on this dead period of his adult life, unless it is to show the time he spent with his father (the two weren’t really close, but enjoyed a forced closeness during this time). There is not much mentioned about his writing during these years either, except to say that he has published his first novel and is working on the second. The only conclusion I can draw is that Coetzee is slowly archiving his life as he ages: with Youth and Boyhood already delivered, Summertime is the next stage, uneventful though it is. He has already written semi-autobiographical novels like Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year that talk to the aging academic and writer. Perhaps it will not be too long before we see the appearance of Fall and Winter, when the mature Coetzee’s real life is laid out for further public examination, and perhaps, this time he will not pull any punches but let it all hang out.

  • Charity
    2019-05-12 23:05

    I'm moving this to "read" even though I stopped a little over halfway and skimmed a little bit of the end. I have no desire to ever read the rest of this book nor anything else by the author.I thought at first it would be about the political situation in south africa, since it starts off talking about that, but it quickly devolves into several encounters of the author with other people, mostly women, who all find him unappealing, unattractive, aloof, and perhaps a touch autistic. It's about him failing to connect with other people, with the stories told from the perspective of those who have known him. These are the people who were closer to him than anybody, yet they all found him uninteresting and almost repulsive on some level. He lives with his father because neither of them have much money and appears to be a failure in life with few career prospects and nearly zero prospects for any kind of significant interpersonal relationship.The story wanders. There are some interesting techniques used, which might be original and thus noteworthy. The other characters, the ones who find it so hard to connect to the author in any way, lead shallow, meaningless lives, yet look down on the author for being even worse than themselves. The story ends with him facing the deteriorating health of his father, which will make him much harder to care for. Depressing and mostly pointless prose, in my mind. Perhaps the man is presenting an authentic picture of himself (though I doubt it; I'm sure it was changed quite a bit in the process of novelization). Nonetheless, there are so few references to anything worthwhile in his life. Sure he must have had something, interests, the rich worlds of the books that he was always supposedly reading, to sustain him and make his head a more pleasant place to hang out in. There was just no relief, and as my fast forwarding to the end revealed, it became more bleak rather than less.All that to say I will not be reading more of this man's works in the future. Off to start some Junot Diaz! I have much higher hopes for him.

  • Geoffrey Fox
    2019-04-25 17:30

    In this his third fictional autobiography, Coetzee portrays the early adulthood of a man very much like himself — with even the same name, "John Coetzee" — with similar origins and history (born into an English-speaking Afrikaner family near Capetown, returned to South Africa after some years abroad including the US, later to become a well-known writer). However this fictional John Coetzee is now dead, and what we learn about this period of his life, in his 30s and before he achieved fame as a writer, comes from journal notes and interviews by an English academic of people who were somehow involved with him then: a suburban housewife in an adulterous affair, an Afrikaans-speaking cousin with whom he had as a child fantasized marriage, a younger French woman and college-teaching colleague who saw her affair with him as a way to overcome a bad marriage, a Brazilian woman he ineffectually pursued, and a male teaching colleague with whom he had a cordial but rather distant friendship. The Coetzee portrayed here is a man very sensitive to injustice, hopelessly incompetent socially, who has left his acquaintances somewhat puzzled that he ever amounted to anything. Certainly, to some extent this is an effort by the author to see himself as others see him (as the Burns poem has it), but the novel is not so much about a real John Coetzee as about South Africa in the 1970s, the limitations and hypocrisies in Afrikaner culture, the indifference of most of the world (at least in that setting) to the literature that so much matters to the fictional and to the real John Coetzee. Besides the self-deprecating and often very amusing tone of the central protrait, the book offers clear-eyed, unsentimental perceptions of Afrikaner self-isolation (with a language spoken nowhere else in the world, as the fictitious Coetzee has jotted in his journal), the mind-dulling routines of college ritual, and the sharply contrasting concepts of manliness as between the protagonist himself and, most sharply, the Brazilian widow who remembers her big, bold husband.

  • Magdelanye
    2019-05-02 23:05

    This curious, sly and rather ruthless quasi-autobiography is the 3rd volume of Scenes From a Provincial life. The purist in me almost put it away, for I have not read these. But it was the first day after the summer solstice, and that little synchronicity nailed it. I went ahead and immediately was pulled in to South Africa, the dusty streets,the random violence,the winding down of a rotten system and Nelson Mandela still in prison. But this is not a straightforward story to illustrate the great conflicts of the day, although they are referred to and the moral dilemma of the white natives is clearly explicated, the focus is the questionable character of the author himself and consists in the main of a series of interiews with the enigmatic, quintessential listener, the biographer. It seems that Coetzee is aiming to get at the quintessential truth of himself by creating the macabre fiction that he is already dead and his biographer is attempting to achieve a coherent perspective from the handful of people that Coetzee revealed in his journals that had the greatest impact on his life. That he could project such indifference and scorn on himself is truly heartbreaking.The irony is, his claim to mediocrity is proved false by his cleverness and his tremendous list of titles. I enjoyed reading this book and like the spare and eloquent writing. According to GR star system, I am able to give it only a 3.September 2015when I picked up this book at the library, I had a faint feeling that I had read it before, the cover seemed so familiar. Reading a bit sparked no recognition however, and in the mood for Coetzee's spare prose I took it home and began to read. To my mortification, I remembered the premise but none of the characters, and when I entered the book here there was my review.I have given it an extra star and a more thorough reading.

  • Sara
    2019-04-27 21:12

    J.M. Coetzee's new novel is not just an interesting conceit. It is a luminous, complicated picture of the life of an artist and writer. But let's start with conceit, which is fun and intriguing: A biographer is writing the biography of the late J.M. Coetzee. This isn't that biography; rather it's notes from interviews the biographer collected from a handful of people who knew Coetzee, mostly women who held some kind of romantic interest for him, discussing their relationship and the kind of man that he was. To be clear, this is fiction: For instance, much of the narrative discusses Coetzee's relationship living with his aging father, yet accounts suggest this is not factually accurate. Further, what emerges is a not very flattering portrait of a man who seemed to only dabble in writing and wasn't taken seriously as an author--his real-life Nobel Prize and two Booker Prizes dispute this characterization; though his winning the Nobel as well as the real titles of his books are mentioned. Certainly much of the fiction is mixed up with fact, and the piecing out what is "real" is one intriguing aspect of the narrative: After all, don't we all have versions of ourselves we believe in, which may or may not coincide with the ways others perceive us? In taking on this conceit, Coetzee acknowledges that one's public life is a complicated affair, and that trying to write one's life story is even more complicated. Beyond this idea, the book is beautifully written. A brief exchange between cousins reflecting on growing up in the rural regions of South Africa evoked such nostalgia in me for a childhood I never had, and the book has such a longing melancholy that, while at the same time it seems to be describing the life of a man who barely lived, it encourages such a fierce desire to live.