Foe: A Novel

Foe: A Novel

3.8 7
by J. M. Coetzee
     
 

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With the same electrical intensity of language and insight that he brought to Waiting for the Barbarians and The Master of Petersburg, J.M. Coetzee reinvents the story of Robinson Crusoe—and in so doing, directs our attention to the seduction and tyranny of storytelling itself

In 1720 the eminent man of letters Daniel Foe is approached by

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Overview

With the same electrical intensity of language and insight that he brought to Waiting for the Barbarians and The Master of Petersburg, J.M. Coetzee reinvents the story of Robinson Crusoe—and in so doing, directs our attention to the seduction and tyranny of storytelling itself

In 1720 the eminent man of letters Daniel Foe is approached by Susan Barton, lately a castaway on a desert island. She wants him to tell her story, and that of the enigmatic man who has become her rescuer, companion, master and sometimes lover: Cruso. Cruso is dead, and his manservant, Friday, is incapable of speech. As she tries to relate the truth about him, the ambitious Barton cannot help turning Cruso into her invention. For as narrated by Foe—as by Coetzee himself—the stories we thought we knew acquire depths that are at once treacherous, elegant, and unexpectedly moving.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A small miracle of a book...of marvelous intricacy and overwhelming power." —The Washington Post Book World

"Foe is a finely honed testament to its author's intelligence, imagination, and skill.... The writing is lucid and precise, the landscape depicted mythic yet specific." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times
Foe is a finely honed testament to its author's intelligence, imagination, and skill … .The writing is lucid and precise, the landscape depicted mythic yet specific.
Michiku Kakutani
NY Times Sunday Book Review
In Foe J. M. Coetzee has written a superb novel by reconsidering the events of 'Robinson Crusoe and presenting them from a new point of view....The human image in Robinson Crusoe is unforgettable, but limited: it is a man's world; women appear only as terrified anonymities, domestic servants in Cape Verde, or the honest widow in London who holds Crusoe's money for him....What Mr. Coetzee's novels imply is that every colonial society is caught between a past so seemingly changeless that it may be conceived as beyond time and history, and a present moment entirely given over to power, empire, history and the systems that further those interests. — Dennis Donoghue
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Imaginatively conceived and richly orchestrated, this slim novel by the author of Waiting for the Barbarians is at once a variant of the immortal Robinson Crusoe and a complex parable of art and life. Englishwoman Susan Barton, having been cast away by Portuguese mutineers, reaches the remote island occupied by another castaway named Cruso (sic and his man Friday. She lives on the desolate rocky island for over a year before they are ``rescued'' by an English ship. Cruso dies en route, and she and Friday are transported to England. The world, she says, demands stories of its adventurers; but how is the story to be told? Indeed, what really happened and what are the facts of her life? What of the mute Friday, sole witness to the events, whose tongue was cut out by marauding slavers? Or did Cruso commit the savage act? In England, she beseeches author Daniel Foe (sic to take the raw material and make a convincing narrative. How does art give life to experience, enliven it, make it vivid, memorable? The truth is sly, evasive; but the novelist closes in upon it with poetic precision to create a small, enigmatic work of art. We are pressed to see in the characters' relationships an allegory of the evil social order that poisons the author's native South Africa. (February)
Library Journal
Cast adrift by a mutinous crew, Susan Barton washes ashore on an isle of classic fiction. For the next year, Robinson Cruso sculpts the land while Friday mutely watches Susan intrude upon their loneliness. Life is mere pattern for the two unquestioning castaways, but Susan is not of their story and she pushes Cruso for rationales that don't exist in a world of imagination. Finally rescued and returned to London, Susan leads Friday to Daniel Foe, the author who will write their tale. Foe, however, sees a different story and seeks ``to tell the truth in all its substance.'' Discovering such truth is Coetzee's aim in Foe, an intriguing novel strikingly different from his earlier works. Here he scrutinizes the gulf between a story and its telling, giving us a thought-provoking text wonderfully rich in meaning and design. Paul E. Hutchison, English Dept., Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140096231
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1988
Series:
King Penguin Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
373,351
Product dimensions:
5.06(w) x 7.74(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

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.

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Brief Biography

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

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