Sunday, December 30, 2007


Love the illustration by MK Mabry, also from NYT.
“Diary of a Bad Year” is not the first among J. M. Coetzee works of fiction to force readers to consider the friable boundary between fiction and nonfiction. “Elizabeth Costello” reveals its eponymous heroine, a literary celebrity, through a series of lectures given by Costello, their content familiar from essays published previously — by J. M. Coetzee.
Thus instructed to conflate Costello with her creator, Coetzee’s readers encounter her again, in his following novel, “Slow Man,” which finds Costello taking up residence in the home of the protagonist, Paul Rayment, as he examines his life in the wake of a crippling accident. “Like it or not, I will be with you a while yet,” Costello informs her reluctant host. She’s brought a “hefty typescript” with her, and it appears she is the author of Paul’s fate, nudging him toward fulfillment.
Or is she a product of his imagination? Certain of Costello’s exasperated comments to Paul — “I did not ask for you” — imply she has no more control over their peculiar pairing than does he.

“Diary of a Bad Year” forgoes the conceit of a perfunctorily named and differentiated alter ego by following the late career of Señor C, who, like Coetzee, is a South African writer transplanted to Australia and the author of a novel titled “Waiting for the Barbarians.”

By J. M. Coetzee. 231 pp.
Viking. $24.95.

Published in UK by Harvelii Secker pds.16.99

For the full NYT review
For a UK review

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