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 America that ended in ...
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