This is my first Coetzee, and for the first sixty pages, it seemed to be an interesting but not arresting book about an older man coping with losing a leg, and his mobility and freedom, and the after-effects of such a loss, including falling in love with his nurse. Nothing earthshattering.
And then the author showed up.
Coetzee, but the fictional author Elizabeth Costello (about whom I think
he's written another book?) and suddenly the book got a whole lot more
interesting. Costello wrangles with this recalcitrant character who
persists in moving slowly, in picking what she thinks are the wrong
narrative choices, and not being quite interesting enough for her to
And in a strange way, this becomes a courtship
between author and character, with the author trying to mold the
character to a more interesting story, but the character resisting her
charms and her machinations.
The main character maintains his
dignity through these schemes, never quite believing that Costello is
the author of his story, instead of a slightly batty author who showed
up on his doorstep on day, wanting to write about him.
this becomes a meditation on character-driven storytelling, and how
sometimes characters just will not do what you want them to do. I didn't
love the book, but I enjoyed what Coetzee was trying to do.