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J. M. Coetzee


Often called J M Coetzee, is a South African-born writer and academic.
J. M. Coetzee
Although he devoted hours of each day to his new discipline, he finds its first premise, as enunciated in the Communications 101 handbook, preposterous: 'Human society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts, feelings, and intentions to each other.' His own opinion, which he does not air, is that the origins of speech lie in song, and the origins of song in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul.
Coetzee quotes
She no longer believes very strongly in belief... Belief may be no more, in the end, than a source of energy, like a battery which one clips into an idea to make it run. As happens when one writes: believing whatever has to be believed in order to get the job done.
Coetzee
Coming to the farm from Worcester, where Coloured people seem to have to beg for whatever they get, he is relieved at how correct and formal relations are between his uncle and the volk. Each morning, his uncle confers with his two men about the day's tasks. He does not give them orders. Instead he proposes the tasks that need to be done, as if dealing cards on a table; his men deal their own cards too. In between, there are pauses, long, reflective silences in which nothing happens.




Coetzee J. M. quotes
It is not, then, in the content or substance of folly that its difference from truth lies, but in where it comes from. It comes not from ‘the wise man’s mouth’ but from the mouth of the subject assumed not to know and speak the truth.
Coetzee J. M.
Hitherto he has found in Western music, in Bach above all, everything he needs. Now he encounters something that is not in Bach, though there are intimations of it: a joyous yielding of the reasoning, comprehending mind to the dance of the fingers. He hunts through record shops, and in one of them finds an LP of a sitar player named Ustad Vilayat Khan, with his brother — a younger brother, to judge from the picture — on a veena, and an unnamed tabla player. He does not have a gramophone of this own, but he is able to listen to the first ten minutes in the shop. It is all there: the hovering exploration of tone-sequences, the quivering emotion, the ecstatic rushes. He cannot believe his good fortune. A new continent and all for a mere nine shillings! He takes the record back to his room, packs it away between sleeves of cardboard till the day he will able to listen to it again.
J. M. Coetzee quotes
As during the time of kings it would have been naive to think that the king’s firstborn son would be the fittest to rule, so in our time it is naive to think that the democratically elected ruler will be the fittest. The rule of succession is not a formula for identifying the best ruler, it is a formula for conferring legitimacy on someone or other and thus forestalling civil conflict.
J. M. Coetzee
Our lies reveal as much about us as our truths.
Coetzee J. M. quotes
He is like a stone, a pebble that, having lain around quietly minding its own business since the dawn of time, is now suddenly picked up and tossed randomly from hand to hand. A hard little stone, barely aware of its surroundings, enveloped in itself and its interior life. He passes through these institutions and camps and hospitals and God knows what else like a stone. Through the intestines of war. An unbearing, unborn creature.
Coetzee
[Being peppered with invitations to travel far and wide to give lectures] has always seemed to me one of the stranger aspects of literary fame: you prove your competence as a writer and an inventor of stories, and then people clamour for you to make speeches and tell them what you think about the world.
Coetzee J. M.
If you have reservations about the system and want to change it, the democratic argument goes, do so within the system: put yourself forward as a candidate for political office, subject yourself to the scrutiny and the vote of fellow citizens. Democracy does not allow for politics outside the democratic system. In this sense, democracy is totalitarian.
J. M. Coetzee
He closed his eyes and tried to recover in his imagination the mudbrick walls and reed roof of her stories, the garden of prickly pear, the chickens scampering for the feed scattered by the little barefoot girl. And behind that child, in the doorway, her face obscured by shadow, he searched for a second woman, the woman from whom his mother had come into the world. When my mother was dying in the hospital, he thought, when she knew her end was coming, it was not me she looked to but someone who stood behind me: her mother or the ghost of her mother. To me she was a woman but to herself she was still a child calling to her mother to hold her hand and help her. And her own mother, in the secret life we do not see, was a child too. I come from a line of children without end.




J. M. Coetzee quotes
The boy is special, Aunt Annie told his mother, and his mother in turn told him. But what kind of special? No one ever says.
J. M. Coetzee
There seemed nothing to do but live.
Coetzee quotes
Paul here is unhappy because unhappiness is second nature to him but more particularly because he has not the faintest idea of how to bring about his heart's desire. And I am unhappy because nothing is happening. Four people in four corners, moping, like tramps in Beckett, and myself in the middle, wasting time, being wasted by time.
Coetzee J. M.
Sometimes when he is among the sheep — when they have been rounded up to be dipped, and are penned tight and cannot get away — he wants to whisper to them, warn them of what lies in store. But then in their yellow eyes he catches a glimpse of something that silences him: a resignation, a foreknowledge not only of what happens to sheep at the hands of Ros behind the shed, but of what awaits them at the end of their long, thirsty ride to Cape Town on the transport lorry. They know it all, down to the finest detail, and yet they submit. They have calculated the price and are prepared to pay it — the price of being on earth, the price of being alive.
Coetzee J. M. quotes
The secret and sacred word that binds him to the farm is 'belong'. Out in the veld by himself he can breathe the word aloud: I belong on the farm. What he really believes but does not utter, what he keeps to himself for fear that the spell will end, is a different form of the word: I belong to the farm. He tells no one because the word is misunderstood so easily, turned so easily to its inverse: The farm belongs to me. The farm will never belong to him, he will never be more than a visitor: he accepts that.
J. M. Coetzee
At the Everyman Cinema there is a season of Satyajit Ray. He watches the Apu trilogy on successive nights in a state of rapt absorption. In Apu's bitter, trapped mother, his engaging, feckless father he recognizes, with a pang of guilt, his own parents. But it is the music above all that grips him, dizzyingly complex interplays between drums and stringed instruments, long arias on the flute whose scale or mode — he does not know enough about music theory to be sure which — catches at his heart, sending him into a mood of sensual melancholy that last long after the film has ended.
J. M. Coetzee quotes
Why does love, even such love as he claims to practise, need the spectacle of beauty to bring it to life? What, in the abstract, do shapely legs have to do with love, or for that matter with desire? Or is that just the nature of nature, about which one does not ask questions?
J. M. Coetzee
In its conception the literature prize belongs to days when a writer could still be thought of as, by virtue of his or her occupation, a sage, someone with no institutional affiliations who could offer an authoritative word on our times as well as on our moral life. (It has always struck me as strange, by the way, that Alfred Nobel did not institute a philosophy prize, or for that matter that he instituted a physics prize but not a mathematics prize, to say nothing of a music prize - music is, after all, more universal than literature, which is bound to a particular language.) The idea of writer as sage is pretty much dead today. I would certainly feel very uncomfortable in the role.
Coetzee J. M.
Erasmus dramatizes a well-established political position: that of the fool who claims license to criticize all and sundry without reprisal, since his madness defines him as not fully a person and therefore not a political being with political desires and ambitions. The Praise of Folly, therefore sketches the possibility of a position for the critic of the scene of political rivalry, a position not simply impartial between the rivals but also, by self-definition, off the stage of rivalry altogether.


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