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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Elizabeth Costello (2003) by J.M. Coetzee


Book Review
Elizabeth Costello (2003) 
by J.M. Coetzee

  Coetzee insisted that Elizabeth Costello, about an older Australian novelist criss-crossing the globe giving various talks on subjects related and not related to her area of expertise, but there is no denying the fact that the material that comprises the in book lectures by Costello is directed adapted from various published papers and talks that Coetzee himself has given over the years.

  Like another late Coetzee entry on the 1001 Books list, Youth: Scene from a Provincial Life, Elizabeth Costello is as much a source of insight into Coetzee the human being as it an example of Coetzee the author.  I believe it to be axiomatic that great artists often have strained relationships with their immediate surroundings, and that is an impression reinforced by both the lecture texts of Elizabeth Costello and the biography of Youth: Scenes from a Provincial Life.  You can convincingly argue that an alienation from ones immediate surroundings is a pre-condition for novel writing itself. beginning with the often immediate financial needs of the first novelists of the 18th century, to the more aesthetic dissatisfaction of the high modernists, ranging from Proust to Joyce and carrying through to our own time.

   But the fussy pre-occupations of Elizabeth Costello are those of a globe-trotting, internationally famous "lady novelist," and those looking for more immediate critiques of society, such as those contained in the meat of Coetzee's oeuvre, are likely to be disgruntled.  Or at least, not gruntled. 

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