An Inspired Choice

Congratulations to J.M. Coetzee for winning the 2003 Nob(el)le Prize of literature. Of course, being a Nostradamus-like figure that I am, he was one of the four writers I highlighted for the Noble gong last year, (even if I couldn’t spell his name.)

When I have a spare moment, which will be some time in November, I’ll blog a little more on this wonderful writer. But as time is of the premium, you’ll have to scan the press release and hear what the Noble Academy said.

PS – This article is interesting if anyone is interested in the politics of the Nobel prize. It was written back in 1998, the year that my thesis topic Jose Saramago, finally won literature’s grand poobah award

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cs
cs
2021 years ago

Which of his books do you recommend for starters Stephen? The Master of Petersburg?

James Russell
2021 years ago

(even if I couldn’t spell his name)

Or Alfred Nobel’s.

:)

wen
wen
2021 years ago

I’ve only read Disgraced, but there are certain scenes ( & certain ideas) in that book that are indelibly printed….

Do we get to claim him as an Australian?

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

James – Oops, it wasn’t very noble to misspell his name either James (it was a three o’clock in the morning with a headache moment), but I think its even more embarrassing to misspell a writer of whom I have read half a dozen titles. I think there’s a lesson somewhere in remembering something correctly the first time; for some reason I’ve been calling him Coatzee all this time, even if his name is Coetzee.

Its almost as amusing as my dad warning me not to smoke that manubana stuff when I was about fifteen, or the consistent mispronouncing of a cousin’s boyfriend, poor Jorg, who was lumped with the name Yawn, until someone politely told my parents the correct spelling.

Chris – on which book to start with, always a difficult choice, as his work is pretty diverse.
If you’re a Dostoyevsky-fiend I’d go for ‘Master of Petersburg’, which is a particular favourite of mine.
‘The Life and Times of Michael K’, with the Kafkaesque references to a tragic existence, is probably the best of his Apartheid novels, though ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ is also an excellent book. Of his recent work ‘Disgrace’, about Post-Apartheid South Africa and the mid-life crisis of a disgraced academic David Lurie, is a challenging but pacey read. Oh, and Coetzee’s ‘Foe’, a re-imagining of the Robinson Cruesoe story, is on nearly every post-colonial reading list I’ve come across.

Its good to see that two of the South African triumvirate have been so aptly rewarded, J.M. Coetzee and Nadime Gordimer, both deserved their Nobel awards IMHO, and thats not forgetting Andre Brink who is a pretty accomplished novelist whose books I keep stumbling on for a couple of bucks, to my delight.

Its funny I remember reading a silly article in a journal that suggested that South African novels would suffer after the collapse of Apartheid, yet I think that with the three writers I’ve mentioned there has not been any slippage of standards. Coetzee and Gordimer in particular seem interested in exploring post-Apartheid conflicts (and there are no shortage of those), but each of the writer’s is endowed with enough imaginaiton, to ensured they don’t become tired. They are interesting writers, Full Stop. In particular I thought Gordimer’s last book ‘The Pickup’ about an illegal immigrant working in South Africa was particularly good, and while it is probably not on Alan Jones’s reading list, it’s a theme I’m sure that is being played out in hundreds of third-world countries as we speak.

wen
wen
2021 years ago

I’ve found the last two Gordimer novels really difficult (haven’t finished them) – there’s an enormous distance between reader & narrator that’s hard to overcome.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

Well he now works at University of Adelaide. I believe that’s enough for him to be deemed an Honorary Aussie.

We claim all those Kiwi actors and musicians are Aussies, until they embarass themselves, and we re-emphasis their Kiwi heritage, so I can’t see why not.

wen
wen
2021 years ago

He’s claimed us

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

The only question is for a writer of such international standing, what is the attraction with Adelaide?

wen
wen
2021 years ago

I dunno.

Hills. Churches. Wine. May Gibb. Margaret Preston. Catherine Helen Spence (note embarrassing SA ignorance).

Maybe just because it’s not South Africa.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2021 years ago

‘Elizabeth Costello’, yes I’ve read most of the book, the disappointing fact being that
about 3/4 of the book appears in ‘The Life of Animals’. Don’t know if I can afford to fork out $30 for the remaining quarter.

mark
2021 years ago

I’d just figured “noble gong” was a pun…

wen
wen
2021 years ago

Reported in yesterdays oz:

Steve Biko Foundation pres. Xolela Mangcu thundered that the award ‘does black African writers no favours….I must confess that my heart sank when I saw the headline about Coetzee getting the Nobel prize. I felt neither joty or elation. Instead I was overcome by a feeling of sadness at how the Nobel committee had once again snubbed Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o….And if we should affirm ourselves in our own stories first, we will then worry less about Australians such as JM Coetzee winning the Nobel prize.”

That’s settled, then.

wen
wen
2021 years ago

And now an Australian Born writer, DBC Pierre, has won the Booker!

(Lives in Ireland, French name, novel set in Texas. But he’s ours, right.)