In 1982, J. M. Coetzee dazzled the literary world with the now classic Waiting for the Barbarians. Five novels, two Man Booker prizes and the 2003 Nobel Prize For Literature later, Coetzee is a writer of international stature and a novelist whose publication of a new work is heralded as a literary event. Now, in his first work of fiction since The New York Times bestselling Disgrace, he has crafted an unusual and deeply affecting tale.
Elizabeth Costello is a humane, moral, and uncompromising creation.
The subject of J.M. Coetzee's latest work of fiction is an Australian writer of international renown -- fêted, studied and honoured. Famous principally for an early novel that established her reputation and from which, it seems, she will never escape, she has reached the stage, late in life, where her remaining function is to be venerated and applauded.
One of a new breed of intellectual nomads, her life has become a series of engagements in sterile conference rooms throughout the world -- a private consciousness obliged to reveal itself to a curious public: the presentation of a major award at an American college where she is required to deliver a lecture; a sojourn as the writer-in-residence on a cruise liner during which she encounters a fellow guest lecturer, an African poet also employed to divert the passengers. Then there is a disquieting appearance at a writers' conference in Amsterdam where she finds the subject of her talk unexpectedly among the audience. She has made her life's work the study of other people, yet now it is she who is the object of scrutiny. But, for her, what matters is the continuing search for a means of articulating her vision and the verdict of future generations.
J.M. Coetzee's latest work of fiction offers us a profound and delicate vision of literary celebrity, artistry and the private life of the mind.
The New Yorker
Billed as fiction, this puzzling book by the new Nobel laureate in literature is more nebulously a collection of essays, all but two previously published.... Coetzee’s work has always been distinguished by cerebral rigor, which in his strongest novels propels narratives of claustrophobic and often savage intimacy. But here he seems to have lost faith in the power of storytelling; his heroine’s journey takes place almost entirely in the realm of the mind, and the effect is that of exploring a cold, depopulated planet.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Mr. Coetzee creates a formidable, even charismatic stand-in...If she is not precisely lovable, Elizabeth is still admirably fierce. Yet this book delves its way into her deepest doubts, culminating in a theatrical denouement teased out of Elizabeth's own affinity for the Kafkaesque.
As argument, literate, impassioned, and disturbing; as fiction, overemphatic and often dull. Perhaps only for Coetzee’s most ardent admirers.
Booklist - Keir Graff
Coetzee may be exploding the genre, but Elizabeth Costello has real novelistic force. Our pleasure is watching this fascinating woman wrestle with intellectual issues as if they are life-and-death matters--and being convinced, in the end, that they are.
This is not the most accessible of Coetzee's novels, but it is an important addition to the author's body of work and heady reading for those who enjoy novels of ideas.
Library Journal - Barbara Love
Costello's rigid morality and probing intelligence finally illuminate the fundamental question of what it means to be human. An intense and challenging novel; highly recommended for all libraries.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
Yawn, though challenging, in the end a boring exegesis.
Rated of 5
by David Levine
Coetzee wrote thise stories to read at scholarly conferences. While the ideas behinding them are always fascinating, they don't always work well as stories. They have all the brilliance and not much of the power of Coetzee's novels. I kept... Read More
Rated of 5
This book is amazing! While I was reading it, I thought I hated it. I couldn't stand the characters and was truly bored out of my mind. When I finished it, I was in awe. I don't want to give anything away but you will feel like you were... Read More
Rated of 5
Trul, Costello stole my heart. Coetzee writes for people with a specific outlook to life, and this work especially is one that typifies his writing. May be, he has a limited readership. and very few people will read through this one, but it is... Read More
Rated of 5
This is a challenging, grim book, but worth the effort. Other reviewers call Coetzee mentally or morally rigorous. Both are true. At times, I felt defeated by the loftiness and vagueness of Costello's arguments. But the writing is so elegant and... Read More
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