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J. M. Coetzee is the author of fourteen novels, three autobiographical fictions, and several volumes of translations, critical essays, correspondence, and short stories. Born in 1940 in Cape Town, South Africa, and resident there throughout his childhood and for much of his adult life, he has lived since 2002 in Adelaide, Australia.
This chapter is prompted by Coetzee’s longstanding interest in stories and storytelling, an interest that is registered across his critical essays and reviews, and thematized in several of his works. Focusing on In the Heart of the Country, The Master of Petersburg, and The Childhood of Jesus, as well as the computer poem ‘Hero and Bad Mother in Epic’, the chapter charts the relationship between the kinds of story that Coetzee has told – generally limited in the scope of their plots and the number of their principal characters – and the forms of narration he has adopted, which vary from the first-person character narration of certain of his early and middle fictions, to the tightly focalized external narration of his later works, to the dialogue-heavy and somewhat affectless narration of the Jesus novels. In each case, it is suggested that the particular form of narration is related to the particular truth with which the work in question seeks to confront its readers.
Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee is amongst the most acclaimed and widely studied of contemporary authors. The Cambridge Companion to J. M. Coetzee provides a compelling introduction for new readers, as well as fresh perspectives and provocations for those long familiar with Coetzee's works. All of Coetzee's published novels and autobiographical fictions are discussed at length, and there is extensive treatment of his translations, scholarly books and essays, and volumes of correspondence. Confronting Coetzee's works on the grounds of his practice, the chapters address his craft, his literary relations and horizons, and the relationship between his writings and other arts, disciplines and institutions. Written by an international team of contributors, this Companion offers a comprehensive introduction to this important writer, establishes new avenues of discovery, and explains Coetzee's undiminished ability to challenge and surprise his readers with inventive works of striking power and intensity.