Though it may strike an odd note of praise, the most admirable quality of J.M. Coetzee's Summertime
is the author's monastic restraint. As the novel develops through a disjointed series of interviews with characters from the early career of the now famous writer J.M. Coetzee, practically every page calls out for the real Coetzee to break the fourth wall of narration and intervene on his hapless hero's behalf. No such intrusion is forthcoming. Instead, we play rapt audience to lovers, family and colleagues whose recollections painstakingly depict the fictional Coetzee as a calamitous failure of a human being, unable to make contact through the walls of his genius.
The story proceeds at two levels, each progressing steadily and each guided by its own logic. At one level we follow a young South African man returned to live with his ailing father after a stint in...
Beyond the Book
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, J. M. Coetzee* studied first at Cape Town, earning degrees in English and mathematics. He worked for several years as a computer programmer while he researched his thesis on the novelist Ford Madox Ford. In 1968 he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a PhD in English, linguistics, and Germanic languages. His dissertation was on the early fiction of Samuel Beckett.
After three years as an assistant professor at SUNY Buffalo, his application for permanent residence in the U.S. was denied as a consequence of his anti-Vietnam war activism. In 1972 he returned to South Africa and...