Coetzee, J. M.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Coetzee, J. M.

J. M. Coetzee: (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, apartheid, 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 critically acclaimed 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. Among Coetzee's other writings are an autobiographical trilogy—Boyhood (1997), Youth (2002), and the fictionalized Summertime (2009)—as well as several essay collections including Inner Workings (2007), studies of 20 20th-century writers. 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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