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Book Tips - J. M. Coetzee

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003 was awarded to J. M. Coetzee "who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider".

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Age of Iron

It depicts how, despite our weaknesses, we can still preserve our humanity in times of cruelty.
/Hachem, Lebanon
A book about the lack of love for our children in this cruel world, where parents want to train fighting men instead of simply giving them warmth and love.
/Victoria, Russia
I recommend this book as, to me, it is one of the best ever written about South Africa, and beyond that, about human complexity.
/Gilbert, France


I knew nothing about apartheid and this book gave you some knowledge of how it impacted both sides.
/Barbara, United States
Because it is bold and vivid. It's portrayal of events and emotions feels pious.
/Anjit, Nepal
It not only tells a story but also confronts questions to which the contemporary world desperately seeks answers.
/Ahmed Ullah, Pakistan
I'm partial to any authors from South Africa, but this showed a different side of life after democracy, than the ever-present political games.
/Zelda Roberts, United Kingdom
It shows how unaware and frightened the modern male is.
/Jordan Hoffman, United States
"When all else fails, philosophize." Truly embedded in human dignity; and a naturalistic examination of existence and freedom.
/Palash Mahmud, Bangladesh
It is a story of good and evil, and consequences of our deeds.
/Gregory, Georgia
It was terrible to read about the way blacks were treated not that long ago...
/TinaSR, Sweden
Coetzee's 'Disgrace' is one of the most moving books I've ever read. As an atheist I'm not the best in drawing such a comparisons, but it's like Bible to me, with it's ability to cover full life, from sin to reconciliation with failure. there's everything, from alpha to omega.
/Lukasz Zaremba, Poland
So bad to see that humans can not let go in hurting humans.
/Sandra, Italy
It is altogether human.
/Mercedes James, United States
Because the situation only gets worse. There seems to be no remedy. A quite real fiction.
/Eduardo, Brazil
There is no need for words - you feel it if you got a good peace of work in your hands - thats it - after I read 'Disgrace' I thought that Coetzee had Nobel qualities - at that time I knew nothing about him - next thing he does is to win the prize - guess if I was proud at myself ...
/Ayse Hildebrandt, Germany
This book tells the story of a man that is every man. His actions are tragic but ordinary, his life is so normal that you can feel the loneliness and the irrational nature of the human condition.
/Ilita, Mexico
The best book I've ever read. Amazing how it describes the life in Southafrica.
/Patricia, Mexico
The rise, fall and redemption of a human being. 2. The observations about human psychology and mind. 3. Quotable quotes for all occasions of life. Brilliant spartan prose. A searing account of the new South Africa.
/Bindu Jamal, India
J.M Coetzee writes with vivid lucidity, pictorial exposition of his characters, not reclusing them in a thematic distance, but reuniting their affections and keeping an eye on their fall, courage and providence in deep reverie, on how it affected their motive of reasoning and their audience. In the ever green, lushing, attractive, simplistic and symphonous novel, Disgrace, we come to a familiaristic appendage of David Lure fall, from his position as a professor in English, after his Freudian lasciviousness for a female student, which transpired to an unprotected sex. He rescinds to his daughter farm, with a luminary glimpse of hope, only to find himself disgraced at his daughters rape.
/Ikhenoba Joseph, Nigeria
A rich and paradoxal portrait of a South African post-apartheid society. A true puzzle of morality, wrapped in a remarkable language.
/Mats Michael Olsen, Norway
Disgrace masterfully blends compelling storytelling and cogent allegory. Each white-knuckle reading of the novel yields further insight and provokes new thought. The imprint it leaves on the psyche is enriching and indelible.
/Seth N., United States
Because it is absolutely a masterpiece.
/Antonio Barquero, Spain
The plain voice of the narration accentuates the lives of the characters as both sad and courageous. The tale is haunting and powerful, yet simple and elegant. It is an unforgettable story, and rather difficult to get through emotionally, but it was worth the effort in the end.
/Nancy Chen, United States
Being a South African citizen, I have a deep appreciation of 'Disgrace'. JM Coetzee has managed to delve into the heart of the post-apartheid South Africa's psyche. Not only does the book analyze the White Dilemma, it also delves into more shared human interests like love, forgiveness and the nature of life.
/Chris, South Africa
Loved it from A to Z. It played all my strings possible and impossible.
/Linda Tomase, Latvia
Because of its subtle yet emotionally charged portrayal of a society in its throes of transition. This is the kind of book I would like to reread every three years. I am so impressed how Mr. Coetzee made such a book possible, I am so glad that it exists.
/Hiba Rana, United States
Perfect in every way.
/Matthew Power, United States
It talks about the the human pain - Disgrace. It disturbs me like anything.
/Mukund, India
The story is masterfully crafted: we get to read how a man (David) follows his instincts, how the tension between his daughter (Lucy) and him never evades and how interracial complexities of South Africa define the actions of the characters. After reading the novel, one dies to read more and learn more about South Africa to be able to understand the rationale behind Lucy's decisions and her thought process. After finishing the novel, I am still thinking why Lucy, why?
/Erdem Tetik, United States
A thundering work of fiction that seems too real; one wonders if it is fiction at all. Coetzee shows us what happens when a man of incredible talent decides to use none of it. He takes pleasure in wallowing in the mud and not feeling sorry about it. It is almost as if the protagonist David Lurie conducts an experiment in degrading himself as much as he can ...
/Anand.Vijayasankaran, India
Coetzee shows courage and inner strength writing honestly about sensitive topics deeply affecting the human heart. He has a powerful, lucid storytelling style using an economy of words.
/Sharif Khan, Canada
A very brutal observation of life.
/Ruby Yong, China
One of the most powerful books I've ever read. About human condition, about us.
/Antonio, Spain
Brutal but perfect this book has lodged itself under my skin. Coetzee's prose is even more powerful than in 'The Life and Times of Michael K'.
/AD, United States
So simple and so complicated. Life.
/Agata Starosta, Poland
It is very real and it brilliantly captures the ways in which ideologies and power-structures collide and intersect.
/Saumya, India
Amazing. A history that reveals the conflictive nature of the human beings. A great novel, a really true novel.
/Sebastián Amir, Colombia
Interesting take on life in South Africa after the surrender of the white farms to the local population. Also, what growing old means and how to come to terms with being unttractive and no longer desirable.
/R. Canevari, Italy
I recommend this book because it has the power to show how things are without criticizing them in a way that is subjective, but rather in a way that we are made to think about their causes and to see that the problems South Africa faces are difficult and have many faces. There is neither right nor wrong in this novel, there is only difference. 'Disgrace' shows complex structures in dealing with culture, race, gender, identity, power, love and ideals. It is a novel that was written by an author who truly understands and responds to every last voice in South Africa and who has the wonderful gift of writing with so much insight that 'Disgrace' is an absolute must for anyone wanting to discover the multi-faceted country of South Africa.
/Amanda Egger, Switzerland

Elizabeth Costello

I like this book because it's a perfect vision of the academic world but besides, the contemporary subjectivity.
/Josefina Delgado, Argentina
This book, 'Elizabeth Costello', is intellectually challenging.
/Janpha Thadphoothon, Thailand
It is about the life of a writer, and describes her adventures in the world of conferences and in the simple life. It has a good question for the abuse of the animals and is very critique from herself. It is one of my favorite books. I hope you will read this book
/Damaso Acosta, Mexico

Life and Times of Michael K

In a very small space, Coetzee creates a world in which innocence, compassion and interpersonal relations are assailed by forces which seem arbitrary. This novel is beautifully written and says much more than can be grasped on a first reading. A classic.
/John Vance Snow, Canada
I think that the main task of literature is to help people to put the main questions .This book made me to think over it again and again. I tried to understand the reasons of actions of the main character and failed ... and then I deeply felt that I would keep asking "why is he ...?" and no one could help me to get the right answer, because there is no such one for all people. But now I see my own answers for that questions.
/Natalia Legka, Ukraine
I like it because Michael is one of the most believable of characters, and his actions always true to his feelings.
/Ida, Norway
This book made me reflect on the misery of humans. It teaches me that every human is a mystery, is an iceberg of something. For me this "something” bright as the light, is for what every writer tends to approach, for human kind. That gives me the power and the motivation to take my way, to be recognized one day by Nobel academy as a winner. I’m going for it.
/Issa Ivo, France
Michael K is a tribute to Kafka, find many similarities in the ‘Metamorphoses’, ‘America’, ‘Artist of Hunger’ and other novels of Kafka. It is an extraordinary book immensely. I identify a lot with men to the limit. Thank you.
/J.P. Cepeda, Colombia
It is a very simple novel, without the humongous subplots or intensely detailed worlds of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. The novel is about the life of a simple (and mentally retarded) Afrikaner named Michael K who tries to make sense of the brutal reality in which he lives and to come to terms with the death of his mother by building a life of his own in a country torn by political instability and civil war. It is a beautifully written book which characters, although not presented in complete detail, are clearly drawn for the reader through conversation and actions. The war-torn South African landscape is described with a heart-felt familiarity. It gives you the beauty of rural life in the countryside and at the same time, makes you feel the harshness of war. The central message (and theme) of the novel is that “there is nothing wrong with being a simple person”. Sounds like a "simple" and un-marketable idea, doesn't it? Well, there is nothing wrong with being simple. And J.M. Coetzee has proved this. Your duty is to go to the nearest bookstore now and read up. And it would certainly change your life.
/Hugo Yap, Malaysia

Slow Man

Because it inspired me to paint one of my favorite paintings called 'Slow Man', in honor of that book.
/Jorge, Mexico
J.M. Coetzee's novel 'Slow Man' provides the reader with a subtle, though brilliant story of a man seeking answers to the questions that arise in life: love, contentment, purpose and lasting legacy once one departs the world. Coetzee takes the reader on a careful journey, holding our hand gently, but allowing us to slip out of his grasp and interpret his thoughts as it pertains to the reader. Coetzee rarely provides any clear answer, cognizant that some things are either better left unsolved or cannot be answered with one universal truth. Remarkable in its clear prose; a must read for any fan of Coetzee or a reader hoping to enjoy a novel of tender melancholy, lightheartedness, understanding. /C.W. Sandor, 21, United States
/C. W. Sandor, United States

Stranger Shores

Coetzee was at the top of his brilliant game when he wrote these literary essays. The dazzle and erudition of these essays turned me onto literary studies and writing in a big way.
/A.G. Laki, Canada

The Lives of Animals

A very important book. I read it both in English and in Swedish.
/Moltas Eklöf, Sweden
A strange, provocative but exciting book about Elizabeth Costellos lecture about animals. Does Coetzee share the same view as Costello? Is the book about animal rights or about literature?
/Mathias Fridemark, Sweden

Waiting for the Barbarians

It is well-written.
/AJC, United Kingdom
An allegorical tale of the struggle between the oppressor and oppressed. The sympathetic magistrate rebels and becomes an enemy of the Empire. Coetzee evokes the fall from grace of a decent man living in an inhumane society. A brilliant story indeed.
/Francis Nnamdi Chidiebere, Nigeria
An allegorical tale of the struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor, Coetzee evokes the sad story of a sympathetic magistrate who rebels against the Empire and falls from grace in an inhumane society.
/Francis Nnamdi Chidiebere, Nigeria
"A barbarian is a barbarian at heart" the struggle between power and values, good and evil. Coetzee is exceptional, the way he makes you visualize and feel every chapter is just amazing. Once you start reading you'll never stop. He is my fave author of all time!
/Alanoud, Jordan
Because it shows us how humans are afraid to changes, and fear leads us to dark paths of our existence.
/Juan Solorzano, Guatemala
It transported me to a distant yet so believable reality, in which a lot of my reflections about human misery are portrayed. Thank you very much Mr. Coetzee!
/Jose Alvarez, Venezuela
It is poignant and ruthlessly honest. A voice that tears apart consolatory constructs that we build to sustain ourselves.
/Ajinkya Deshmukh, India
This book is a striking allegory for Empire. The main character moves through the tripartate of positions of power: aggressor (colonizer), observer, victim (colonized). The character is complex, and readers will find themselves unable to classify him as good or bad, moral or immoral, his actions at any given time as right or wrong. This book has become even more relevant of late, as contemporary Empire (the United States) is again on trial for the crimes of torture and coercion that so characterized empires of the past. EMPIRE is not a thing of the past. It is as prevalent - and as brutal - as ever, and Coetzee highlights the complications that citizens of "powerful" countries like mine must not ignore.
/Rebecca M., United States
The first person narration of this somber, though emotionally rich, story of life in a distant frontier. We have all dreamed, if not contemplated such an existence where we enjoy a quiet life. Nevertheless, Mr. Coetzee has created a fascinating read describing the unique landscape of the frontier, the precise emotional feelings we feel when we are faced by someone who confuses our very hearts, and lastly concludes with a rather unique and comforting ending. As the presentation speech when Mr. Coetzee was moments away from receiving the prize, it is true what was said: Some images will stay with you forever.
/C. W. Sandor, United States


I like 'Youth' because it is about an aspiring writer, and there is nothing more interesting than the mind and heart of a writer. 'Youth' gives weight to those ideas, thoughts, desires and opinions of a writerly mind, which appear strange, at times silly, to people who live in a 'real' world.
/Divya Vashishtha, India
Talking, with art, about life.
/Giovani, Brazil
I love it because it describes, in such a real way, emotions that people, well at least I, have, but that is not said because we are not supposed to feel them. The pretty thing here is that the character, as Almodovar's characters, is difficult to "hate", I mean, the reader might disagree with some attitudes he has but you don't hate him.
/OzSo, Mexico
It depicts every youth life on globe. I looked into myself. Coetzee's style of narration really is wonderful. 'Disgrace' and 'The life and times of Michael K' are also worth reading.
/Vivekananda, India
Captures the experience of youth perfectly.
/Siggy, United States
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