Customer Reviews for

Waiting for the Barbarians (Penguin Ink)

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    A classic story

    Waiting for the Barbarians is a fascinating story about a magistrate working for a dysfunctional and corrupt colonial empire that borders on the outskirts of the modern world.. With deep political undertones Coetzee's tale of man against a corrupting society where rebellion and personal redemption are inevitable is what makes this story so full of enlightenment and secured its place as one of the greatest classic stories of the twentieth century. Not easy to relate to, this story nevertheless succinctly confronts the conflicts of positive and negative traits which we all have to confront to become really human in life . This conflict in our souls which are man's unavoidable dilemmas has perhaps been best exposed Coetzee and Dostoyevsky.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2002

    Could you feel the power?

    In all my years of reading, never have a came across a book so utterly powerful that I acutally, after turing the last page, dropped it and pondered why I exist in this morbid universe. Highly recommended!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Upon picking up this book you are immediately tempted to equate

    Upon picking up this book you are immediately tempted to equate it with South Africa and Apartheid, but it soon becomes clear that Coetzee has larger aspirations for this novel. If you want to read about Apartheid era South Africa read Coetzee's excellent Life and Times of Michael K. Waiting for the Barbarians is about the nature of oppression, in all times and places, in all forms and shapes. The oppressors and oppressed, even the time and place, are kept deliberately vague in order to allow Coetzee to explore this theme without the burden of history being overlaid upon it. The novel opens with the benevolent Magistrate of a small border outpost witnessing the cruelties of his empire as agents from the capital torture and kill the native "barbarians" because of the probably nonexistent threat they pose. He is deeply disturbed, but he does nothing to stop it. As the cruelties grow into atrocities the Magistrate sinks deeper and deeper into guilt and shame. When the empire finally turns on him he finds his voice, too late. But don't think we are meant to see the Magistrate as noble, as the lone voice of justice; his motives are often muddled, his will often broken. And as we read his account we come to realize that he is practicing his own form of oppression. He sees the barbarians as a people in need of civilization, a people in need of protection from themselves, in effect a people lesser than he. In this way Coetzee addresses not just the blunt, easy to see oppression of force, but also the far more insidious oppression of culture. And he leaves us wondering who the real "barbarians" are. At 160 pages this is a short novel, but don't be fooled, Coetzee's prose is so painstakingly precise he can tell a story in 160 pages that would take pretty much anyone else 300 pages to tell.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    Top of my list

    I could not put this book down. Universal message. Timeless. Will mankind ever learn?

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  • Posted January 12, 2009

    What are we waiting for?

    "Waiting for the Barbarians" by J.M. Coetzee is brilliantly written. Coetzee writes a generic novel, applicable to anyone's life. Coetzee leaves the names of things just that. Neither the magistrate of the town or the Empire have names. I found myself in thinking like the Magistrate at critical points in the novel. In the second half of the novel when he is imprisoned the Magistrate questions his purpose in life. He questions why the Empire had to chase down the barbarians in the first place. He did not want responsibility for all the prisoners that the Colonel brought to his camp from the wilderness. <BR/> He is a man searching for his soul in a sea of desolation. His spirit is lost, his power is stripped and he is left with only his conscience. The relationship he forms with his slave haunts him. He is confused by anything meaningful in his life. He has floated through life holding power and commanding sentinels. His curiosity leads him to explore old bones, and through that search he digs up one of the only things worthwhile. The Magistrate tries to save some prisoners. He is in affect trying to save his soul. He cannot bear to have these poor savages trapped in the settlement when could be happy in their forest homes. <BR/> Coetzee forces his reader to question the purpose of their life. He pushes the reader to search his conscience and find what it is that is truly worth fighting for. In the end, we are left guessing the force behind life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2008

    Great Book

    This book is fantastic on so many levels. Just who are the barbarians that we all await for? This book is real on so many levels throughout history. It's brilliant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2001

    THE BRUTALITY OF HEGEMONY IN A NUTSHELL

    This is without doubt my favorite Coetsee book. In little over 150 pages he strips bare and lays spread eagle humanity at its worst. He gets right to the heart of the human condition and those things that allow ¿good people¿ to suborn man¿s inhumanity to his brethren. Coetsee draws a clear picture of the reality that when might is right, the weak are always the barbarians. But, of course, barbarity is the prerogative of the strong. This book is Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Camus seasoned with Jorge Luis Borges. Anyone interested in human morality should read this little book ¿ twice if you¿re not too tired.

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    Posted February 27, 2013

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    Posted October 18, 2009

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    Posted May 16, 2010

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    Posted November 8, 2008

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    Posted January 19, 2009

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    Posted March 3, 2010

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    Posted October 10, 2009

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    Posted September 4, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

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