South African Author Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

The South-African writer John Maxwell Coetzee received the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature for his body of work “which in many disguises describes the astonishing implications of alienation”, as broadcast by the Swedish academy on Thursday the second of October.

Born near the cape of South Africa on the ninth of February 1940, J. M Coetzee started his career as an author in 1974 and became internationally renowned in 1980 thanks to his novel Waiting for the Barbarians.

He received the Booker prize twice, once for his novel, Life and Times of Michael K, in 1983.

The author of ten works written in English, Coetzee studied Anglo-Saxon literature in the United States before he began teaching at Capetown University. His first book Dusklands was published in 1974.

Of the announcement, Coetzee issued a statement saying: “It came as a complete surprise. I was not even aware that the announcement was pending.”

His condensed dialogues and brilliant analytics distinguish the novels of J. M Coetzee as astute and shrewd. The author is also a scrupulous skeptic, unmerciful in his criticism of cruel rationalism and of the moral cosmetics of western civilization.

His first work Dusklands revealed already his ability of recognition that he would make more apparent in his subsequent works concerning subjects close to him: the unknown and poverty.

His next work, At the Heart of this Country, comes across as a narration of a psychotic. Waiting for the Barbarians is a political thriller in the same vein as Joseph Conrad, and more candidly, it opens the door to revulsion.

With Life and Times of Michael K, which inspires as well as Defoe, as well as Kafka, and as well as Beckett, Coetzee imposes himself more clearly as a writer of solitude.

The Master of Petersburg highlights the literary cosmos and life of Dostoevsky. While his work Disgrace, in which the action takes place in South Africa just after the toppling of white power, involves the audience in a plot which renders an academician humiliated as he tries to defend his own honor as well as his daughter’s.

The novel exposes a question central to the author’s body of work: Can we escape history?

This question is further explored in his autobiographical composition, Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, in which the writer deals with, above all, the humiliation of Coetzee’s father and the conjecturing that accompanies his son through it all, but also tells of the inherent presence of magic in the rural south-african life, and with the interminable conflicts between Boers and English, blacks and whites.

The Swedish academy, by way of Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, issued the following statement on Coetzee, ” There is a great wealth of variety in Coetzee’s works. No two books ever follow the same recipe. Extensive reading reveals a recurring pattern, the downward spiraling journeys he considers necessary for the salvation of his characters. His protagonists are overwhelmed by the urge to sink but paradoxically derive strength from being stripped of all external dignity.”