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Slow Man

Slow Man

3.0 8
by J. M. Coetzee

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J.M. Coetzee's latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, is now available from Viking. Late Essays: 2006-2016 will be available January 2018. 

J. M. Coetzee, one of the greatest living writers in the English language, has crafted a deeply moving tale of love and mortality in his new book, Slow Man. When


J.M. Coetzee's latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, is now available from Viking. Late Essays: 2006-2016 will be available January 2018. 

J. M. Coetzee, one of the greatest living writers in the English language, has crafted a deeply moving tale of love and mortality in his new book, Slow Man. When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, he is forced to reexamine how he has lived his life. Through Paul's story, Coetzee addresses questions that define us all: What does it mean to do good? What in our lives is ultimately meaningful? How do we define the place we call "home"? In his clear and uncompromising voice, Coetzee struggles with these issues and offers a story that will dazzle the reader on every page.

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)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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)

Meet the Author

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 then studied literature in the USA and went on to teach literature and English at the State University of New York at Buffalo until 1983. In 1984 he became professor of English literature at the University of Cape Town. In 2002 he moved to Australia, where he is attached to the University of Adelaide. Since 2002 he is also Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.

Coetzee made his debut as a writer of fiction in 1974. His international breakthrough came in 1980 with the novel Waiting for the Barbarians, and in 1983 he won the Booker Prize in the United Kingdom for Life and Times of Michael K.

After "updating" Robinson Crusoe in the novel Foe, 1986, Coetzee returned to South Africa with Age of Iron (1990).

In 1999 Coetzee became the first author to be twice awarded the Booker Prize, this time for his novel Disgrace, in which the plot, as in In the Heart of the Country (1977), mainly takes place on a remote farm in South Africa.

A fundamental theme in Coetzee's novels involves the values and conduct resulting from South Africa's apartheid system, which, in his view, could arise anywhere.

Coetzee has also published translations and acted as a literary critic for The New York Review of Books, among others. Coetzee's literary criticism has been published in essay form in journals such as Comparative Literature, The Journal of Literary Semantics, and The Journal of Modern Literature and collections have been issued as White Writing (1998), Doubling the Point ( 1992), Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship (1996), and Stranger Shores: Essays 1986 –1999 (2001).

Coetzee's latest work, Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons (2003), is a mixture of essay and fiction, and some sections have already been included in other published works such as What Is Realism? and The Lives of Animals.

Author biography courtesy of The Swedish Academy.

Brief Biography

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

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Slow Man 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I related to Paul's desire for privacy and some form of independent living after he loses his leg in a bike accident, I couldn't understand his obsession with the aide he hired to assist him and her family. And Elizabeth Costello's complicated presence and single-minded desire to get Paul to make any sort of decision with his life - when the two of them were strangers to one another - was baffling. Very abrupt ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first quarter of this book is interesting. We follow Paul Rayment after an accident that leaves him without a leg. (This happens in the first few pages.) We're in his mind, experiencing what he does, following him through the few people who care for him. Then Elizabeth Costello arrives and the book goes downhill. She arrives from no where and acts as an authorial voice. She knows things she couldn't possibly know and she messes with Paul's mind. This interloper never develops. We're led to believe there's something mystical about her, perhaps other-worldly. I did not like her because she was neither a "real" character nor a true authorial voice. Coetzee plays with this technique--that Elizabeth is his voice in the story, but for what purpose? In places we find her asking the same questions we do: why doesn't Paul act in one way or another? Why doesn't he leave his situation? Etc. And nothing really happens. It's as if the author is begging his character to do something and he doesn't. I don't feel Paul has changed by the end, which is why I was disappointed. This story had a lot of potential.
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Maximillian More than 1 year ago
Yes, I am getting old, so I did appreciate this novel. Twenty years ago I probably would have said "I don't get it." The story is good on the surface level and it is also a thoughful exploration of what to do with our remaining years. Do we fill them with life or hide away in our comfort zone?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago