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27.12.09

Coetzee's Summertime: A Disembodied Man

Jonathan Dee reviews J. M. Coetzee's Summertime in the New York Times:
Illustration of J. M. Coetzee by Joe Ciardiello
Great men in the winter of their lives often treat the writing of their memoirs as a kind of victory lap, but whatever J. M. Coetzee is after in this third volume of his genre-bending auto biography, it is not self- congratulation. The first two volumes, unadornedly titled “Boyhood” and “Youth” (and, in contrast to this one, labeled nonfiction), were marked by Coetzee’s decision to write about himself in the third person. In “Summertime” he takes this schism one bracing step farther, by imagining himself already dead. The book is nominally a kind of rough-draft effort by Coetzee’s own biographer, an Englishman named Vincent, to build the case — through transcribed interviews with lovers and colleagues and other figures mentioned by Coetzee in his “posthumously” opened notebooks — for the years 1971-77 as an especially formative period in the late author’s life, “a period,” as Vincent would have it, “when he was still finding his feet as a writer.” [Read the article]