07 December 2009

Summertime and Coetzee's Countervoices

An essay I wrote on J.M. Coetzee's autobiofictional memoirs, including his latest book, Summertime, has been posted in the new issue of The Quarterly Conversation. (I'll note here that the title and the section titles in the essay are not mine: my original, preferred title was "Awakening the Countervoices in One Self: J.M. Coetzee and the Authority of the Author", but that's not really very descriptive, so I can see why the change was made. Similarly, I left the sections untitled, but I've titled subsections before, so it's more consistent this way.)

Here's a taste:
In its form and subject matter, Summertime has more in common with Elizabeth Costello and Diary of a Bad Year than Boyhood and Youth, but some of its central concerns are the same, and it is possible to see the John Coetzee who is the topic of Summertime as an adult version of the John Coetzee who is the protagonist of Boyhood and Youth (if we assume the protagonists of those books are the same John Coetzee . . .). In many ways, Summertime unites the strategies of the recent books with the earlier ones—not only Boyhood and Youth, but Dusklands, In the Heart of the Country, Foe, The Master of Petersburg, and Doubling the Point.
As usual, this is a rich and diverse issue of TQC -- deserving particular attention is "Translate This Book!", in which dozens of translators, writers, editors, publishers, agents, journalists, etc. offer one title not available in English that they wish were.