Slow Man

Slow Man

2.8 9
by J. M. Coetzee
     
 

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"When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his solitary life is irrevocably changed. Stubbornly refusing a prosthesis, Paul returns to his bachelor's apartment in Adelaide, uncomfortable with his new dependency on others. He is given to bouts of hopelessness as he looks back on his sixty years of life, but his spirits rise when he finds… See more details below

Overview

"When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his solitary life is irrevocably changed. Stubbornly refusing a prosthesis, Paul returns to his bachelor's apartment in Adelaide, uncomfortable with his new dependency on others. He is given to bouts of hopelessness as he looks back on his sixty years of life, but his spirits rise when he finds himself falling in love with Marijana, his practical, down-to-earth Croatian nurse who is struggling to raise her family in a foreign land. As Paul contemplates how to win her heart, he is visited by the mysterious writer Elizabeth Costello, who challenges Paul to take an active role in his own life." In this new book, J. M. Coetzee offers a meditation on what makes us human, on what it means to grow older and reflect on how we have lived our lives. Slow Man is a novel that asks questions but rarely provides answers; it is a portrait of a man in search of truth. Paul Rayment's accident changes his perspective on life, and as a result he begins to address the kinds of universal concerns that define us all: What does it mean to do good? What in our lives is ultimately meaningful? Is it more important to be loved or to be cared for? How do we define the place we call "home"?

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Editorial Reviews

Ward Just
I take this novel to be a scrutiny of disappointment and irresolution, a chicken-and-egg affair that does not yield satisfactory answers. Still, Coetzee's narrative is a bracing corrective to the blustering do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night. For Rayment, one chance after another has come and gone, some seized, most not. And when enough chances have come and gone, it can seem altogether wiser to maintain things as they are… J. M. Coetzee has much to say about these matters and many others in Slow Man—beautifully composed, deeply thought, wonderfully written.
— The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Nobel-winner Coetzee (Disgrace) ponders life, love and the mind/ body connection in his latest heavy-hitter; he also plays a little trick. When retired photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his lengthy, lonely recuperation forces him to reflect on a life he deems wasted. The gloom lifts with the arrival of brisk, efficient Marijana Jokic, his Croatian day nurse, with whom Paul becomes infatuated. (He also takes a special interest in Marijana's teenage boy-the son he never had.) It's here, while Paul frets over how to express his feelings, that Coetzee (perhaps unsure if his dithering protagonist can sustain the book) gets weird: the distinguished writer Elizabeth Costello, eponymous heroine of Coetzee's 2003 novel, comes for a visit. To Paul's bewilderment, Costello (Coetzee's alter ego?) exhorts him to become more of a main character in the narrative, even orchestrating events to force his reactions. Some readers will object to this cleverness and the abstract forays into the mysteriousness of the writing process. It is to Coetzee's credit, however, a testament to his flawless prose and appealing voice, that while challenging the reader with postmodern shenanigans, the story of how Paul will take charge of his life and love continues to engage, while Elizabeth Costello the device softens into a real character, one facing frailties of her own. She pushes Paul, or Paul pushes Elizabeth-both push Coetzee-on to the bittersweet conclusion. Agent, Peter Lampack. (On sale Sept. 26) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The physical and spiritual ramifications of a life-changing event are at the heart of Nobel prize winner Coetzee's latest novel. While riding his bicycle one day, Paul Rayment, a sixtysomething French-born photographer living in Australia, is involved in an auto accident and loses a leg. A solitary and stubborn individual by nature, he is sent spiraling deeper into depression and social isolation. Only Marijana, his levelheaded Croatian nurse, whose family he will become involved with as he falls in love with her, begins to lift his gloom. Also entering his life is aging novelist Elizabeth Costello (who first appeared in Coetzee's eponymously titled 2003 work), a mysterious presence who seems to know a great deal about his situation even before meeting him and pushes him toward uncharacteristic risks in order to shake him from his malaise. This is a finely wrought portrait of a not entirely sympathetic protagonist crippled in ways that go well beyond the loss of a limb. Highly recommended.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The 2003 Nobel laureate's tenth novel reintroduces wisdom-dispensing Australian novelist Elizabeth Costello, first sighted in Coetzee's lecture collection The Lives of Animals (1999). As she did in the author's 2003 novel Elizabeth Costella Elizabeth functions as doppelganger and mentor-this time, to 60-year-old former photographer Paul Rayment, who has lost a leg in a bicycling accident. After leaving the hospital, Paul rejects several home-care nurses, until Croatian immigrant Marijana Jokics earns his trust, his gratitude-and his unspoken love. The hardworking Marijana's busy family life also attracts her aging, infirm patient (who refuses a prosthesis, and is now acutely aware of his loneliness and childlessness), and Paul attempts to play God, offering to pay her teenaged son's college tuition (and offending Marijana's husband, a trained engineer underemployed as a mechanic). Enter dea ex machina Costello, a world-renowned writer who's now a homeless septuagenarian. She seems to know everything about Rayment's and the Jokics's histories, and patiently pushes Paul toward fuller involvement in the world: as the lover of a sex-starved blind woman (interestingly named Marianna), a de facto parent-guardian, and an all-round more emotionally (albeit not physically) complete human being. "Become major," she intones. "Be a main character." Coetzee never reveals whether (as Paul suspects) he is a character in a novel Costello is writing, perhaps a creature of her imagination, or whether she has (as she repeatedly insists) been "sent" to recall him to life. Slow Man has more narrative than the laxly discursive Elizabeth Costello, and does build appreciable dramatic momentum, before endinginconclusively. Still, one has the uneasy feeling that Coetzee's Nobel Prize has had an enervating effect, stripping his formerly intricate house of fiction to a shell of its former self: a platform for the abstract musings of a sententious sage. Where is the author of Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace, now that we need him most?
From the Publisher
[Coetzee] has found a new access of warmth and humor, and displays a vivifying fondness for his characters. (John Banville, The New Republic)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780099490623
Publisher:
Random House UK
Publication date:
10/03/2006
Edition description:
NEW
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.03(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.55(d)

What People are saying about this

Coetzee sees through the obscene poses and false pomp of history, lending voice to the silenced and the despised. Restrained but stubborn, he defends the ethical value of poetry, literature and imagination. Without them, we blinker ourselves and become bureaucrats of the soul.
—Per Wästberg, in the Presentation Speech for the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature
From the Publisher
[Coetzee] has found a new access of warmth and humor, and displays a vivifying fondness for his characters. (John Banville, The New Republic)

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