A Teller of Spare and Haunting Fables That Carry Weight of History ; BOOKER PRIZE South Africa's Leading Novelist Takes Award for Second Time after the Jury Splits
Walsh, John, The Independent (London, England)
J M COETZEE, who has won this year's Booker Prize with his novel Disgrace, is well established as the most important novelist based in South Africa. His eight novels, beginning with Dusklands in 1974, have crossed centuries and continents. The characters have ranged from an 18th- century Robinson Crusoe in Foe to the voice of an American apologist in Vietnam, from a Boer farmer to a rootless Cape vagrant in Life and Times of Michael K, to some invented episodes in the life of Dostoevsky. His other books are In the Heart of the Country, Waiting For the Barbarians, Age of Iron, and The Master Of Petersburg.
Coetzee's theme is colonialism and those who suffer from its fallout. He is not a polemicist but a maker of spare, haunting fables that carry the weight of history and recent revolutions in their narratives of conflict and dispossession. A constant theme is the symbolism of parent and child as emblems of colonists and colonised.
His often glum subject matter is leavened by the spare clarity of his prose, seen at its best in Disgrace. The novel is set five years after South Africa's first democratic elections, and tells the story of David Lurie, a 50-something Cape Town lecturer who has an affair with a student called Melanie. Summoned before a committee, he is accused of harassment and dismissed.
He decamps to the eastern Cape where his lesbian daughter Lucy works as a subsistence farmer. …