Paperback, 233 pages.
Read from September 18 to 25, 2016.
Coetzee truly is a remarkable writer. I don’t even like all of the books I have read by him but I have an intense respect for his talent. Coeztee seems to specialize in creating characters that are borderline unlikeable, yet some how relatable enough that as a reader you feel very invested in them. While I wasn’t enthralled with the story itself, I was intrigued by the content. I haven’t read a piece of philosophy that read so story-like since Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.
“She is no longer sure that people are always improved by what they read. Furthermore, she is not sure that writers who venture into the darker territories of the soul always return unscathed.”
Elizabeth Costello is a world-renowned Australian author who after many years of success is growing tired of the routine. She is old and her life consists of dry lecture halls and stale award ceremonies. She has a son, whose wife cannot stand her stances on animals rights and the ways that she goes about sharing her views. She also has an estranged sister who has devoted herself to God, while she has devoted herself to academia. Known for being articulate and well spoken, Elizabeth begins to lose sense of her self and for the things that she stands for. During one particular speech, Elizabeth becomes the object of scrutiny and further she spirals into questioning and doubt. She questions her contributions and her very being as a writer as well as the other authors she has come to know over the years. How can she continue to keep herself relevant, for her the remainder of her life to make sense and having meaning and for her contributions to mean something to future generations?
If I am honest, this book as novel, does not read well. It comes across more like an essay or a piece of academia. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I imagine that if you have the wrong perception, this book may not be appealing to you. The novel consists of extensive inner monologues as well as the extents of Elizabeth’s speeches. The content is all very insightful but if you are looking for a book to escape in then this book is not for you.
With that, holy fuck. Coeztee sure knows how to pack a lot into such a short book. This man needs to win an award for being fantastically concise. Seriously. He could give a few other writer some much need tips. It’s much hard to write something short and poignant than it is to write a long one.
Overall I would recommend this book for the ponderous philosopher, lovers of fantasic writing, and for those who enjoy taking the time to get lost in thought.