Sunday, September 02, 2007

Diary of a bad year

Can't wait to read J M Coetzee's novel, Diary of a bad year.

I had read its first chapter in the NYRB sometime ago and I love the way Coetzee intertwines fiction and philosophy (political philosophy) in this novel. I have found very few writers who think exactly like I do and who care about things that I care about too (I hope I do not sound immodest in saying this). Coetzee is that writer who, as if, speaks for me, minus his penchant for probability that has never been a field of my interest.

Here's Christopher Tayler on Coetzee's fact-woven Diary of a Bad Year:

Unlike Life & Times of Michael K (1983) or Disgrace (1999), this isn't a book you'd press on someone new to this great writer. But it's much more than an exercise in letting off some steam inside a tricky fictional frame. Funnier than anything else he's written, if sometimes in a rather donnish way, it eventually becomes unexpectedly moving, offering surprises while avoiding a final thunderclap with the restraint that Coetzee's readers have learned to expect. The metafictional stuff is handled with more panache than it was in Slow Man, and the devices aimed at keeping the reader off balance work well. Towards the end of the book, Coetzee conveys absolute sincerity while scrupulously directing the reader's attention to the potentially fraudulent techniques he's using to convey it. Perhaps he's pulling a ladder up after himself, but you don't doubt that, as C puts it while discussing late Tolstoy, he's struggling in earnest with "the one question that truly engaged his soul: how to live".

And here's Boyd Tonkin's take on Coetzee's "late style" as exhibited in his latest novel, a work in the hybrid territory:

His latest novel (and it is one, in spite of all its formal games) puts the angry sage under scrutiny as it marks the further progress of Coetzee's bracingly bold "late style". Just as Edward Said proposed in his book of that name, Coetzee seems to be detaching himself step by step in a long "crisis of farewell" from the conventions of his genre. As in Elizabeth Costello and Slow Man, he edges away from fully-embodied fiction into hybrid territory where essays, fables and aphorisms bed down in the frame of an invented yarn.

As Diary of a Bad Year puts it, in relation to the ageing Tolstoy and similar late-stylists, "the texture of their prose becomes thinner, their treatment of character and action more schematic". Yet this depletion can also bring about "a liberation, a clearing of the mind to take on more important tasks".


Nikol said...

What do you think of Obadiah Shoher's extensive reply to Ed Said at ?

Zafar Anjum said...

Dude, this seems interesting but the url takes me to a book page. Is there any article in particular that you want me to read?