Life & Times of Michael K

Life & Times of Michael K

Book - 1998
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In South Africa, whose civil administration is collapsing under the pressure of years of civil strife, an obscure young gardener named Michael K decides to take his mother on a long march away from the guns towards a new life in the abandoned countryside. Everywhere he goes however, the war follows him. Tracked down and locked up as a collaborator with the rural guerrillas, he embarks on a fast that angers, baffles, and finally awes his captors. The story of Michael K is the story of a man caught up in a war beyond his understanding, but determined to live his life, however minimally, on his own terms.
Publisher: New York : Wintage, 1998
ISBN: 9780099268345
Branch Call Number: F COE NVD
Characteristics: 184 p. ; 23 cm
Alternative Title: Life and times of Michael K


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Oct 03, 2017

The style - precis narrative (Roth and Babel are the earlier exemplars) - fits this story rather well. I found the essay-istic part 2 the best, especially the passage starting on page 149.

May 04, 2015

South African writer J.M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2003. Along with "Waiting for the Barbarians" and "Disgrace," this is his best known book. I assume the "K" in the title is an allusion to Kafka's "The Trial."

Mar 17, 2015

As stark and heartbreaking as ‘The Pearl,’ as enriching and life affirming as ‘The Alchemist,’ this is a parable of the highest literary caliber. Coetzee’s meditation on innocence, war, and the power of natural freedom is poetic, profound, and simply breathtaking.

brianreynolds Jun 04, 2012

<i>The Life & Times of Michael K</i> by J.M. Coetzee, without once mentioning Apartheid or noting the skin colour of the characters, explores what it means to be, not black or white, but human. Bit by bit the extraneous is stripped away from Michael K. His job, his family, his home, his possessions, his freedom, his nourishment. Even the nature of his offence to that which governs him, even his name is lost in the chaos and turmoil of the conflict that surrounds him. He becomes "a walking skeleton" as much out of choice as by circumstance; he is imprisoned without reason; he is pronounced dead for the convenience of others. A Twentieth Century Job, he maintains the ability to hope, to dream, to survive, to seek the nature of his essence. This is a story of endurance. Of faith, not in a god or in mankind, but in one's personal humanity, that there is something left when all else seems to be gone. This is a book of extraordinary and extravagant ideas, a book less about the historical conflict in South Africa than about the survival of the human spirit. It doesn't whine. It doesn't rage or lay blame though at times one wonders how it can bite its tongue in the midst of so much injustice and pain. It is a story of pride and dignity in the face of adversity, and as such it reads more often than not like a parable. This is one those rare books that is told with such plainness a twelve-year old could say the words aloud and know what is happening, while at the same time a doctorate in philosophy would be handy in plumbing its depths. Simply, it is a book that humbled me both as a writer and a reader.

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