J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face-to-face with

J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face-to-face with Time ☁ [PDF / Epub] ☀ J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face-to-face with Time By David Attwell ✎ – Thomashillier.co.uk A moving insightful biography of the Nobel Laureate and a study of J M Coetzee’s work illuminating the creation of his exceptional novels J M Coetzee is one of the world’s most intriguing authors A moving insightful biography of the Nobel Coetzee and MOBI î Laureate and a study of J M Coetzee’s work illuminating the creation of his exceptional novels J M Coetzee is one of the world’s most intriguing authors Compelling razor sharp erudite the adjectives pile up but the heart of the fiction remains elusive Now in J M Coetzee and the Life of Writing David Attwell explores 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 J. M. Kindle - the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin—Attwell produces a fascinating story He shows convincingly that Coetzee’s work is strongly autobiographical the memoirs being continuous with the fictions and that his writing proceeds with never ending self reflection Having worked closely with him on Doubling the Point a collection of Coetzee’s essays and interviews and given early access to Coetzee’s archive David Attwell is an engaging authoritative source The Life of Writing is a fresh riveting take on one of the most important and opaue literary figures of our M. Coetzee and ePUB ¹ time This moving account will change the way Coetzee is read by teachers critics and general readers.

10 thoughts on “J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face-to-face with Time

  1. Tuck Tuck says:

    here is a comprehensive review by john pistelli who has thought greatly about coetzee and seems than ualified to speak on this book unlike me i've only read a couple of his novels and coetzee auster correspondence bookbut i loved how attwell wrote about the novelist's process of creating his fiction and how it changed through revision and how coetzee is very concerned with realism with metafiction with modernism and with his life in south africa his country south africa his parents and family in south africa through a microscope at times telescope at others prism too this attwell book looks at coetzee notes and notebooks for his writings of 'dusklands' 'heart of the country' micheal k' waiting for the barbarians' 'foe' 'age of iron' a little bit of summertime 'master of petersburg' 'elizabeth costello ' disgrace' 'slow man ' bad year' 'childhood of jesus' and his some of his public lectures and speech at sweden nobel ceremony has great pictures end noes bibliography and index

  2. Salvatore Salvatore says:

    2020 I'm still glad someone did this heavy research into the author's notebooks and drafts It's still incredible to read how a novel germinates and morphs in the writing process2015 One of the best books I've read on the creative process notably the revision revision revision stageCoetzee's prose is so lucid and terse as if there's no excess as if his novels and essays could not be written any other way And yet Attwell dives into his drafts available at UTexas and shows how Coetzee evolves stories from ideas to first goes to manipulations of characters and plots to the final product Attwell reveals how uncertain Coetzee is most of the time in his decisions shows what kind of uestions he asks of his own writing and of what he thinks his audience will respond to Impressive all around

  3. John Pistelli John Pistelli says:

    David Attwell’s book is billed as a “literary biography” presumably so as not to scare off the common reader for whom it seems to be intended But it is like a critical study of Coetzee’s writing organized thematically than chronologically and informed by Coetzee’s archival materials at the University of Texas at Austin If Attwell has a thesis it is twofold 1 that Coetzee based on his voluminous drafts and notebooks is committed to the process of finding a form for his fiction that not only refuses conventional realism but also allows his own sensibility and experience to speak; 2 relatedly that Coetzee even in his earlier allegorical and historical fictions is a far autobiographical writer than readers have yet understood Attwell’s longest and strongest sections on Coetzee’s life are fascinating his account of Coetzee’s troubled love for the landscape of the Karoo a landscape his ambiguous class position as a poor Afrikaner and his racial status as a settler colonist and his European cultural attachments never really allowed him to imaginatively “possess” with any security; his summary of Coetzee’s extremely complex involvement at times amounting to collaboration with the apartheid era censorship regime; and his examination of the genesis of Coetzee’s great Dostoevsky novel The Master of Petersburg in his son’s death at age 22 Other sections—on Coetzee’s relationship with his parents for instance or his life during graduate school in the 1960s in the US—are sketchier perhaps reflecting a paucity of archival evidenceAttwell depicts Coetzee in the midst of massive struggles with his fictional and autobiographical materials This is refreshing because in narrating the writer’s intellectual difficulties Attwell shows up as terminally shallow the “craft” discourse the dominates so much discussion of imaginative writing today Finding a form for a novel or memoir is not a problem of craft—as building a sturdy table would be—because literary aesthetics is bound to ethics and metaphysics and form communicates worldview Of course by the end of this book I was slightly weary of Coetzee’s cliched notebook complaints about realism which he seems to have a rather one dimensional view of for an admirer of Tolstoy; but no serious writer can fail to be inspired by his agon as he tries to compose works that at once address or imitate the social world critically comment on their own procedures and express the author’s own passion as Attwell observesThe last sentence of this notebook entry—‘Finally perhaps evidence of me’—is especially revealing confirming that for Coetzee metafiction has an autobiographical implication in so far as it is about the book’s being written The stakes for this mode of self conscious narration are much higher than postmodern game playing and they certainly don’t involve self masking—on the contrary self consciousness in the narration marks the place where the need to define oneself is most acuteThe notebook is illuminating here because it shows that Coetzee is freuently anxious about ‘attaining consciousness’ ‘Attaining consciousness’ means two things showing that one properly understands one’s materials; and bearing witness to one’s existence in the act of writing As an aside it is also inspiring how many bad ideas Coetzee eventually even doggedly turned into superb novels Life Times of Michael K started as a Kleist inspired tale of a white South African crime victim who goes on a spree of vengeance in a black township; worse than the reverse of Doctorow’s Ragtime it anticipates—not in a good way—Joel Schumacher’s angry white man film Falling DownAre the archives as Attwell transmits their contents especially revealing? I would say yes—but the archival “scoop” is understandably not one that either Attwell or his publishers would want to trumpet it appears that Coetzee has long been conservative than his academic reputation would suggest and even the postmodern gestures of his middle period fiction were motivated as much by a reactionary distaste for the affective style of progressivism as by a desire not to commit the “epistemic violence” of “speaking for the Other” Why for example did Coetzee not allow Friday a voice in Foe his postcolonial recasting of Robinson Crusoe? He writes during its compositionBy robbing him of his tongue and hinting that it is Cruso not I who cut it out I deny him a chance to speak for himself because I cannot imagine how anything that Friday might say would have a place in my text Defoe’s text is full of Friday’s Yes; now it is impossible to fantasize that Yes; all the ways in which Friday can say No seem not only stereotyped ie rehearsed over and over again in the texts of our times but so destructive murder rape bloodthirsty tyranny What is lacking to me is what is lacking to Africa since the death of Negritude a vision of a future for Africa that is not a debased version of life in the WestAttwell comments rather blandly on this “it is Coetzee’s judgment about the failure of post colonial nationalism” but its sweeping dismissal of postcolonial writing perhaps reuires commentary; what begins as an ethical refusal of “cultural appropriation” ends in a perhaps over hasty identification with Africa and rejection of all extant forms of black protestOn the other hand Coetzee’s stern admissions of his own intractable position his confessions about what he cannot know or imagine has much to recommend it As the young Barack Obama wrote about T S Eliot “there's a certain kind of conservatism which I respect than bourgeois liberalism”—and Coetzee a lover of Eliot falls under this heading There is no divesting oneself of one’s historical situation not really and Coetzee allows in the following journal entry that may serve as the epigraph to all his works that he will remain the “man of liberal conscience” a phrase that recurs throughout this book till the end of his days even if they have to take him out and shoot himI am outraged by tyranny but only because I am identified with the tyrants not because I love or ‘am with’ their victims I am incorrigibly an elitist if not worse; and in the present conflict the material interests of the intellectual elite and the oppressors are the same There is a fundamental flaw in all my novels I am unable to move from the side of the oppressors to the side of the oppressedCoetzee has chosen to devote his life’s work to worrying at this Gordian knot It can be sliced however by dispensing with the Manichean terms oppressor and oppressed and abandoning the arrogant writerly mission—which goes back only two centuries anyway—to save the world Perhaps it is enough only to observe it and to recreate it in language the conclusion of Diary of a Bad Year suggests as much It may be distasteful to discover in Attwell’s report that Coetzee was reading ruefully about Mao’s Cultural Revolution during South Africa’s transition to democracy; but the implied assessment of the writer’s necessary distance from popular judgment may well be a wise one Attwell’s intelligent portrayal of this most intelligent of writers leaves readers much to think about—much of it disturbing If you liked this review you may want to see some of my other writings on Coetzee

  4. Rian Nejar Rian Nejar says:

    A detailed illuminating biography of J M Coetzee a writer and Nobel laureate and a thorough documentation of motivations influences and the writing process followed in his many acclaimed works A sense of self delusion is revealed in the subject writer's thoughts about his creations whereas the writer asserts as conveyed by the biographer that the process of creation involves an impression of one's self upon the art and an erasure of this impression in completing the work in congruence with words of one of his modernist forebears T S Eliot Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion but an escape from emotion; it is not an expression of personality but an escape from personality and the creation of a work of art is a painful and unpleasant business; it is a sacrifice of the man to the work it is a kind of death he nevertheless says of Eliot ' for a poet who had such success in his heyday in importing the yardstick of impersonality into criticism Eliot's poetry is astonishingly personal not to say autobiographical' Coetzee's work in like fashion as presented by the biographer in this work appears deeply influenced by his own responses to events circumstances social and cultural environment and personal tragedies not to mention what may be called his personal failings Coetzee also comes up with a very personal creative writing process of taking the work of past masters and remolding them with his own variations and criticism The work is not exactly illustrative of 'the life of writing' It describes the subject writer's life and his writing methods including his notes and adopted techniues and is thereby rather limited It is not an easy read; both the subject and the biographer are seen to lean upon verbosity and wordiness as for instance in ' a tremulous sense of whowhat he is' by the subject writer a tremulous voice yes but a tremulous sense of self? and in a description by the biographer of imagery by the subject writer of lowering a teaspoon on the end of a string into a blown up well to extract water as ' a memorable image of survival' Such tribute to a writer's uniue imagery appears a result of the subject writer's mentor student relationship with the biographer than an impersonal evaluation of any artistic merit in the unusual imagery Nevertheless I found the book interesting and informative The idea of a consciousness in a work described within as paraphrased ' a knowledge of the subject matter and a recognition of the act of writing about such matter' is intriguing While this is described in one instance by the biographer as ' narrative structure which is very much a story of Coetzee's search for himself among his materials' and is rather difficult to envision as a search for a mental construct of a self among material objects and events it can be seen as a curious refinement to the idea of development within a work be it of characters plot or allegorical criticism or praise This idea may indeed be worth further pursuit; in the words of the admitted forebear of Coetzee T S Eliot Immature poets imitate; mature poets stealA Goodreads First Reads book won in a giveaway

  5. Mike Mike says:

    It would help the reader of this book if they'd read some of Coetzee's work I haven't though perhaps after finishing this book I may do I found the first five chapters of the book hard going It seemed academic in tone than I was keen to engage with and I didn't warm to Coetzee himself much Not that this changed through the book; he comes across to me as a fairly cold person though his books may belie that From chapter six on Attwell makes increasing use of the notes and diaries that Coetzee kept and for me as a writer this was perhaps the most interesting part I'm a writer who struggles between the idea of outlining a novel and just getting on and writing finding my way bit by bit I prefer the latter but when you work that way unless you happen to be lucky you can wind up writing your novel several times over as you find and what it's actually about and as the characters change or get excised from the story Coetzee seems to write in this fashion but in an even convoluted way while it's not entirely clear in Attwell's book I get the impression that each novel started almost as something entirely different from the published work main characters come and go change their names often situations are written out in full and then abandoned new things are added but don't necessarily make the cut and much If Coetzee worked in any other medium besides words he'd cost himself a fortune in materialsFor me this was a far interesting aspect of the book than the exegesis of his novels which remain somewhat foreign

  6. George George says:

    35 stars An interesting fairly academic read about Coetzee's writing process Also you gain some detail of Coetzee's life his relationship with his parents his love of the Karoo landscape being an Afrikaner his family's South African settlement history and it's influence on him his European cultural connections his academic involvement in apartheid censorship his grappling with living in South Africa and his decision to live in Australia and how important other fictional works were in shaping his fiction Apart from his three autobiographical novels Boyhood Youth and Summertime this book shows that a number of Coetzee's other novels are autobiographically influenced For example Coetzee’s Dostoevsky novel The Master of Petersburg was written after Coetzee's son’s death This is a good reference book I will enjoy reading particular sections of this book after rereading a Coetzee novel to gain a greater appreciation of each Coetzee novel

  7. John Vanderslice John Vanderslice says:

    I will be publishing a review of this book later in 2017 in the Pleiades Book Review

  8. Lukasz Pruski Lukasz Pruski says:

    Coetzee famously says 'all writing is autobiography' and 'all autobiography is storytelling'I got hooked on John Maxwell Coetzee about three years ago when my wife's book club was reading Disgrace I was completely stunned by the power of the novel and by the unbelievably precise prose Disgrace is certainly is among the very few best books I have ever read Since then my count of Coetzee's books has reached 18 including his non fiction works of literary criticism; all my 18 reviews are posted here on Goodreads and they are all high rated with two other masterpieces warranting full five stars Waiting for the Barbarians and Boyhood No wonder that I have been extremely interested in David Attwell's JM Coetzee and the Life of Writing Face to Face with Time 2015 The author who worked under JM Coetzee's guidance as a Master's student at the University of Cape Town and then collaborated with him on a book titled Doubling the Point states that the goal of his study is to read Coetzee's life and work together His research method has been based on looking not at the finished works but at the authorship that underlies them its creative processes and sources Mr Attwell spent many weeks reading Coetzee's manuscripts and notebooks and was thus able to discover the remarkable ways in which the authorship transforms the often uite ordinary materials into unforgettable fictionBeing just a casual reader I am not in the slightest ualified to discuss the literary creative process and will just mention a few of the main topics of the book The epigraph uote from Attwell indicates a strong focus on the autobiographical component of virtually all of Coetzee's fiction work Coetzee's struggles with the issues of realism of fiction are the other principal theme of the study Mr Attwell uotes Coetzee who feels bound to produce realism if the book is to be written but with each next novel seems to spend less and less time on providing sufficient layers of realism to ground his fiction in Yet another principal topic is the metafictional aspect of Coetzee's work and particularly the uestion of whether and why the novel should be self conscious The author reports Coetzee's endorsement of Robert Alter's thought provoking answer that the self conscious novel is aware of impermanence and death in a way that realism cannot be Mr Attwell also discusses some critics' particularly South African ones attacks on detachment from the immediacies of South Africa that they perceive in many Coetzee's novelsWhile Attwell's book is a must read for literary critics and literature students as well as for all people who like this reviewer are obsessed with Coetzee's writing the casual reader may find the study too specialized Also Mr Attwell's writing is not as superbly lucid as Coetzee's whose prose even in the most intense philosophical fragments is crystalline clear something that might be attributed to his degree in mathematics and practice as a computer programmerAlthough I have read the book with extreme interest in two consecutive late night sittings I am not sure whether it has changed or even deepened my view of Coetzee's work in any appreciable way As an ordinary reader I am not sure I want to know about the evolution of a literary work of art before the author decides on the final version The books the finished products speak to me much stronger than the analyses of the creative processes that underlie them Thank you Ewa for buying me this bookThree and a half stars

  9. Jenneffer Jenneffer says:

    i finally finished this book It was worth it There are places where the author gets wrapped up in the ouevre rather than making the point clear but I've been fascinated by Coetzee since living in South Africa and reading his novel Disgrace He holds possibly the most prominent and important place in South African literature second only to Alan Paton and Nadine Gortimer Great insights to the three periods of Coetzee's writing life

  10. Robbe Robbe says:

    Read an excellent article about this on the LA review of books

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