Age of Iron

( 6 )

Overview

In Cape Town, South Africa, an old woman is dying of cancer. A classics professor, Mrs. Curren has been opposed to the lies and brutality of apartheid all her life, but has lived insulated from its true horrors. Now she is suddenly forced to come to terms with the iron-hearted rage that the system has wrought. In an extended letter addressed to her daughter, who has long since fled to America, Mrs. Curren recounts the strange events of her dying days. She witnesses the burning of a nearby black township and ...

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Overview

In Cape Town, South Africa, an old woman is dying of cancer. A classics professor, Mrs. Curren has been opposed to the lies and brutality of apartheid all her life, but has lived insulated from its true horrors. Now she is suddenly forced to come to terms with the iron-hearted rage that the system has wrought. In an extended letter addressed to her daughter, who has long since fled to America, Mrs. Curren recounts the strange events of her dying days. She witnesses the burning of a nearby black township and discovers the bullet-riddled body of her servant's son. A teenage black activist hiding in her house is killed by security forces. And through it all, her only companion, the only person to whom she can confess her mounting anger and despair, is a homeless man, an alcoholic, who one day appears on her doorstep.

Brilliantly crafted and resonant with metaphor, Age of Iron is "a superbly realized novel whose truths cut to the bone." (The New York Times Book Review)

Mrs. Curren, the narrator of this haunting new novel by the author of Waiting for the Barbarians, is an elderly white woman dying of cancer in a country afflicted with its own mortal sickness. Her letter to her daughter charts the progression of both diseases in language that is both shattering and sensuously precise.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A retired South African professor's letters to her daughter in America, telling both of her terminal cancer and of her country's afflictions, constitute a novel that moves with the implacability of a nightmare.
Library Journal
This is the South African novelist's most direct indictment of apartheid yet. It takes the form of a letter-diary from Mrs. Curren, a former classics professor dying of cancer, to her daughter in America. She details a series of strange events that turn her protected middle-class life upside down. A homeless alcoholic appears at her door, eventually becoming her companion and confessor. Her liberal sentiments and her very humanity are tested as she experiences directly the horrors of apartheid. She comes to recognize South Africa as a country in which the rigidity of both sides has led to barbarism and to acknowledge her complicity in upholding the system. Less allegorical than Coetzee's previous novels, this is still richly metaphoric. A brilliant, chilling look at the spiritual costs of apartheid. Recommended.-- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140275650
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

J.M. Coetzee

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, John Michael Coetzee studied first at Cape Town and later at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in literature. In 1972 he returned to South Africa and joined the faculty of the University of Cape Town. His works of fiction include Dusklands, Waiting for the Barbarians, which won South Africa’s highest literary honor, the Central News Agency Literary Award, and the Life and Times of Michael K., for which Coetzee was awarded his first Booker Prize in 1983. He has also published a memoir, Boyhood: Scenes From a Provincial Life, and several essays collections. He has won many other literary prizes including the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. In 1999 he again won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for Disgrace, becoming the first author to win the award twice in its 31-year history. In 2003, Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Biography

John Maxwell Coetzee was born in 1940 in Cape Town, South Africa. He is of both Boer and English descent. His parents sent him to an English school, and he grew up using English as his first language.

At the beginning of the 1960s he moved to England, where he worked initially as a computer programmer. He studied literature in the United States and has gone on to teach at several American universities, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Adelaide.

Coetzee made his debut as a writer of fiction in 1974. His first book, Dusklands was published in South Africa. His international breakthrough came in 1980 with the novel Waiting for the Barbarian. In 1983 he won the Booker Prize in the United Kingdom for Life and Times of Michael K. In 1999, he became the first author to be twice awarded the Booker Prize, this time for his novel, Disgrace. In 2003, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The Academy cited the astonishing wealth of variety in Coetzee's stories, many of which are set against the backdrop of apartheid.

In addition to his novels, Coetzee has written numerous essays and interviews. His literary criticism has been published in journals and collected into anthologies.

Good To Know

Described by friends as a reclusive and private man, Coetzee did not make the trip to London in 1984 to receive the Booker Prize for Life and Times of Michael K, nor when he again won the prize for Disgrace in 1999.

His 1977 novel, In the Heart of the Country, was filmed as the motion picture Dust in 1985.

Coetzee has also been active as a translator of Dutch and Afrikaans literature.

In 2002, Coetzee emigrated to Australia.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Maxwell Coetzee
    2. Hometown:
      Adelaide, Australia
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 9, 1940
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cape Town, South Africa
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Cape Town, 1960; M.A., 1963; Ph.D. in Literature, University of Texas, Austin, 1969

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 6, 2011

    Coetzee at his usual best - highly recommended

    Coetzee's work is always impressive. This book puts one through gut wrenching emotions as Coetzee forces one into impossible conflict in the changing world of South Africa, yet with poignant, supportive, unexpected relationships.

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  • Posted May 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Marvelous, Unexpected Genius

    I read this recently as a required book for a college freshman course. Given the topic, I hadn't expected to enjoy it so thoroughly, but with each passing page I found myself more engrossed. The style is unique and uncanny and perfectly satisfying. At times I wanted to slap the main character, and then I realized how well-written she was. Beyond just a good read, however, this story pushes the reader to examine deeper themes, such as termincal illness and the inevitability of death, individual truth and reality in life, and the effect of theory versus the effect of action. There is so much to be found between the covers of this phenomenal book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2001

    J.M. Coetzee, Age of Iron

    Im am a ninth grade student and Redmond High School and I read Age Of Iron by J.M. Coetzee for a five themes of geography application project and all though this book may have ben written at my reading level the book didnt keep my attention and make me finish one oage so I could comtinue to the next. For an age category beyond mine it may have appealed to that reading audience but it simply wasnt something I wanted to know about enough to thoroughly enjoy the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2001

    Heart rending, astonishing, and with a pure sense of perfect reality

    I disdain to criticize the previous reviewer, but this novel is among the most perfectly written in modern times. Coetzee's grasp of existential truth is unparalleled in modern literature. His depictions of the South African turmoil mirror perfectly the wringings of the soul. This is a work of pure dispair, infinite castigation and indictment, and the tender, but relentless, exposure of the heart. It was said in an orginal review of this book (NY Times?) that 'Coetzee tells truths that cut to the bone.' I recommend that anyone read this book, but God help you if you do. God help us all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2000

    A boreing book?

    I have recently read this book for an application for honors 9 grography at Redmond High School in Oregon. This book is basicly a book written by an elderly women of her last days alive. The book helped my project by showing the movement of ideas which is a theme for geography. I felt that the Authors style of writting was vulgure and not really to the point. in this book however I learned that South Africa was a country in turmoil and needs alot of help. The Authors presentation of the subject was frankly not impressive. i feakt that this book was written at my grade level but it was just boreing. I would only recomend this book to a person who is not easily bored.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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