As the narrative of his recent Man Booker Prize-winning novel (1999) demonstrates (with its metafictional elements, its suspension in the present tense and its generation of critical uncertainty) veracity is something Coetzee seeks to problematise rather than produce.
At the centre of is 52-year-old David Lurie: 'Once a professor of modern languages, he has been, since Classics and Modern Languages were closed down as part of the great rationalization, adjunct professor of communications.
The novel, which is on one level an exploration of the relationship between barbarity and civilisation, takes its title from a poem by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.
Winning the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the spare, razor sharp prose celebrated in has become a trademark of Coetzee's later fiction.
One of a number of youthful, dissident literary voices speaking against the apartheid regime in the 1970s and 1980s, Coetzee's distinctive prose was identified early on as both eloquent/elusive and as politically urgent.
His work has been compared favourably with Nabokov, Kafka and Conrad, and by the time of mature works such as (1986) he had already achieved international acclaim.The very different protagonists of these narratives: Eugene Dawn (an expert in psychological warfare) and Coetzee (an adventurer and pioneer), turn out to be involved in strikingly similar forms of oppression.It is this kind of relationship between oppressor and oppressed in the second part of (1980).The barbarians, it would seem, lie at the heart of the very empire that constructs them as other.The plight of these two characters, both of whom are physically disabled, gets worse as they find themselves without a secure home or income in a South Africa torn apart by civil war.Coetzee grew up in a new development north of Cape Town, tormented by guilt and fear.With a father he despised, and a mother he both adored and resented, he led a double life—the brilliant and well-behaved student at school, the princely despot at home, always terrified of losing his mother's love.Much of Coetzee's writing reflects either directly or indirectly on recent events unfolding within South African society, although critics have warned against straightforward allegorical readings of his work.More productively we might think of Coetzee's writing as questioning any easy correspondence between fictional representation and the rapid, traumatic changes that have transformed and continue to transform South Africa.For Coetzee the post-colonial does not signal the formal disintegration of empire, but rather a new, and in many respects more insidious phase of colonisation.For example, his debut novel, (1974) comprises two novellas that evoke apparently discrete historical events, one colonial and the other post-colonial, in a manner that clearly asks us to reflect upon their relationship to one another and to contemporary South Africa more generally. The second is set 200 years earlier and focuses on a Boer settler in the 1700s.