Life and Times of Michael K

( 10 )

Overview

In a South Africa turned by war, Michael K. sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. This life affirming novel goes to the center of human experience—the need for an interior, spiritual life; for some connections to the world in which we live; and for purity of vision.

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Overview

In a South Africa turned by war, Michael K. sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. This life affirming novel goes to the center of human experience—the need for an interior, spiritual life; for some connections to the world in which we live; and for purity of vision.

Winner of the 1983 Booker Prize

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Coetzee is a writer of clarifying inventiveness and translucent conviction....Mr. Coetzee's subdued yet urgent lament is for the sadness of a South Africa that has made dependents and parasites and prisoners of its own children, black and white....he discloses, in the language of imagination, the lumbering hoaxes and self-deceptions of stupidity. His theme is the wild and merciless power of inanity....For the sake of the innocent, time is Mr. Coetzee's hope. -- Cynthia Ozick
Charles McGrath
....As in his earlier Waiting for the Barbarians, Mr. Coetzee proves himself an absolute master of moral fiction. -- The New York Times Books of the Century
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140074482
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/15/2003
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 178,467
  • Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.66 (h) x 0.40 (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 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2006

    A solid five stars . . . and more

    LIFE AND TIMES reminded me in many ways of two other books I¿ve recently come across: Hosseni¿s KITE RUNNER and another book called THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, both of which are great and riveting. But this neat little book about a slow-witted man in civil-war torn South Africa will really make you think. Michael K is part Huck Finn, part Rodya from 'Crime and Punishment', part Gollum, and part Robinson Crusoe (and possibly, Josepf K from Kafka's 'The Trial'). He takes on a characteristic of each of those characters during his adventure to get his mother back to the land of her youth. He has an uncomfortable relationship with food, and his struggle to feed himself is very odd indeed. After reading this book, I felt that I should build a cabin for myself far away from everyone else and create my own environment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    An insightful story

    Written at a time that Apartheid was still very strong, Coetzee gave a philosophical to life in that environment, which in this case is a surreal post-civil war South Africa with all the horrors that come with the aftermath of a civil war, especially an African civil war. However, Michael K. makes the effort to shield himself from the harshness of his environment by taking on a life of existential survival. In fact the lesson from this book applies to all environments or situations where society makes it difficult for a private person to live a personal life that is independent of the forces of the environment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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