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Friday, March 16, 2018

Youth: Scenes from a Provincial Life (2002) J.M. Coetzee


Book Review
Youth: Scenes from a Provincial Life II(2002)
J.M. Coetzee

  Part of the unique appeal of being a succesful novelist is that you can stand apart from your artistic identity in a way that is difficult to impossible for people like actors and musicians.  Literature is not immune to the fame fairy, particularly in places like France, where writers of fiction can become first class public intellectuals.  England, too, the United States, not so much.  More notable are canonical 20th century authors who have maintained total anonymity, J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon being good examples of that type.

  Before he began to publish his three part Scenes from a Provincial Life, Coetzee was more of the later than former, his Provincial Life trilogy established his actual, personal identity.  The province in question is South Africa, particularly Boer South Africa, where Coetzee was raised by parents who he has willfully left behind, at the beginning of Youth, to make his own way through university.   Before long, Coetzee has made his way to London, where he tried to balance a career (and contingent residence visa) as a computer programmer with his artistic aspirations.   Young Coetzee takes Ezra Pound as his lode-star, and references to the business career of T.S. Eliot are frequent.

   Coetzee, like Paul Auster, is one of those late 20th century authors who simply swamped the last few decades of the 1001 Books list, even including such an obviously secondary work like Youth.  I kept trying to understand what his parents did to him, he never explains.

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