The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature to South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, a towering literary talent “who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider.” The Academy cited the astonishing wealth of variety in Coetzee’s stories, many of which are set against the backdrop of apartheid.
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.