Life & Times of Michael K

Life & Times of Michael K

Book - 1984
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Penguin Putnam
From author of Waiting for the Barbarians and Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. 

J.M. Coetzee's latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, is now available from Viking. Late Essays: 2006-2016 will be available January 2018. 


In a South Africa turned by war, Michael K. sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. This life affirming novel goes to the center of human experience—the need for an interior, spiritual life; for some connections to the world in which we live; and for purity of vision.

Baker & Taylor
Michael K, a young South African, becomes unwillingly and unwittingly involved in a war in South Africa after he loses his gardening job in Capetown and embarks on an odyssey to return his dying mother to her homeland.

Publisher: New York : Viking Press, 1984, c1983
ISBN: 9780140074482
0140074481
9780670427895
0670427896
Characteristics: 184 p. ; 23 cm

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1aa
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.

l
lukasevansherman
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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