Thursday, March 29, 2007

BOOK: Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee

I saw Coetzee's name on a list of 1001 books every person should read. There were a lot of books by him, some I've heard of a it: Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians, Life and TImes of Michael K. So I ordered this book, ELizabeth Costello. Now, I'm not a stupid person, I know that. But I could not understand anything in this book.
It's about the life of Elizabeth, a writer, and the book consisted of different philosophical arguments she had written or made at the end of her life. Realism, animals, evil, humanities, Africa, mythology, all were discussed and I understood none of it. It was all really global thinking, very abstract, and the ending, where Elizabeth is pleading her case of belief at the Gate, I couldn't understand what the arguments were that she was making. This article implies that the authour had Costello poorly arguing, misusing facts and being a poor debater on purpose. An indictment of authors asked to discuss issues. That would make some sense in the book.

I recognize that Coetzee is a good writer in that the sentences were lovely; the words for me just didn't become coherent.
I liked a few lines such as;
"It is not a good idea to intereupt the narrative too often, since storytelling works by lulling the reader or listener into a dreamlike state in which the time and space of the real world fade away, superseded by the time and space of the fiction."

The last Nobel Prize winning author I read was Toni Morrison, and I don't get her books either. I tried a few, and I read the words but they don't mean anything. Just like this book.
I finished it because I hoped at the end I'd get it, but I don't. I'm going to look up the book on the web to find out what it might have meant, but I shouldn't have to do that in a book.
Some articles I am finding, a review here and here , take a long time to analyze the book. There are a lot of parallels to Coetzee's life, and a background in his life would appear to help understand the book. But even with all that analysis, the book has mixed reviews in Coetzee's purpose and execution. An unsatisfying read all in all.

1 comment:

  1. I was glad to read your comments on this book! It's one of the few that I just could not finish, for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I was surprised to find it on the "1001" list.



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