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J.M. Coetzee & the Life of Writing

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J.M. Coetzee & the Life of Writing is a ‘critical biography whose purpose is to read the life and work of its subject’. It is not a biography in the style of John Kannemeyer’s J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing (2012), nor a ‘critical biography’ in the conventional sense.

J.M. Coetzee is one of the most intriguing of authors in all of world literature. Supple, razor-sharp, compelling, erudite: the adjectives pile up, but we seem to get no closer to the elusive heart of his fiction. Now, in J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing, David Attwell illuminates the extraordinary creative processes behind Coetzee’s novels from Dusklands to The Childhood of Jesus. Using Coetzee’s manuscripts, notebooks and research papers—recently deposited at the Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin—Attwell produces a fascinating story of the creative trajectory and the life out of which the fiction was engendered. He shows convincingly that all of Coetzee’s work is autobiographical, the memoirs being continuous with the fictions, and that his writing proceeds with self-conscious and never-ending reflection. This is a moving and readable account which is bound to change the way Coetzee is read, by the critics and general reader alike.

“A study of manuscripts and notebooks may sound like a dry exercise in scholarship, but David Attwell’s book on J.M. Coetzee is nothing of the sort. It is a fascinating, highly readable and tremendously insightful account of the processes through which some of the greatest novels of our time came into being. In telling this story Attwell shows in illuminating detail the inseparability of Coetzee’s creative activity from the significant events of his life.” 

– Derek Attridge, University of York, UK

About the Author

David Attwell, who is Professor of English at the University of York, is one of the most sophisticated critics of J.M. Coetzee’s novels. His own writing about Coetzee has in fact become inseparable from Coetzee scholarship (he edited the seminal book of essays and interviews with Coetzee entitled Doubling the Point). In some respects, then, J.M. Coetzee & the Life of Writing brings us full circle: it is as much about Coetzee’s work, as about the evolution of this important critic’s own engagement with the meaning of the novels. This point is made clear in the preface: Attwell has, after rigorous study of the manuscripts, come to realise that Coetzee’s processes of writing are at least as fascinating as the finished product. What he offers is less a biography of Coetzee the man than an intimate study of the evolution of his writing.

Parameters of Book: 
Author: David Atwell
ISBN: 9781431421534
d-PDF ISBN: 9781431421541
ePUB ISBN: 9781431421558
mobi file ISBN: 9781431421565
Size (mm): 235x155mm
Pages: 272pp
Format: Paperback
Colour: Illustrated
Rights: South African
Language: English
Publication Date: April 2015