Coetzee is one of my favourite novelists. I encountered him under the tutelage of my high school English teachers in the context of post colonial fiction. The first book that I read (which we studied) was The Life and Times of Michael K. As a result of my initial experience with Coetzee, for me, his work is defined by this text, despite the fact that it is in fact his fourth book.
As an overview, what captivated me in this novel was the rawness of his characters, the intensity of their ache. It would be a lie not to admit to the fact that being a South African immigrant had something to do with creating the magical connection that I felt for Coetzee. The way that he depicts the country and the manner in which his characters reflect the land held a magic for me that was very real.
Since reading Michael K all those many years ago (1992 to be precise), I have slowly made my way through the rest of Coetzee’s repertoire: Dusklands (1974), In the Heart of the Country (1977), Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), Foe (1986), and Age of Iron (1990). I did try and lose myself in The Master of Petersburg (1994) but it failed to capture me in the same way that Coetzee’s earlier works did. The last Coetzee book that I read was Disgrace (1999) and I have to say that it destroyed my relationship with the author. I was tormented by his depiction of the dogs in this book and I never managed to move beyond it. Perhaps this is my loss; however, at this stage I am happy to say that Coetzee’s earlier works are indescribably brilliant and I am a far better person for having read them.