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by J. M. Coetzee

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.
Download Life and Times of Michael K: A Novel epub
ISBN: 0140074481
ISBN13: 978-0140074482
Category: Humor
Subcategory: Humor
Author: J. M. Coetzee
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint Used edition (January 8, 1985)
Pages: 192 pages
ePUB size: 1265 kb
FB2 size: 1115 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 635
Other Formats: mobi lit txt doc

Coetzee is the master. Ignore him at your own peril. He's one of the very few writers still alive and working today that actually deserves each and every award and accolade he's been handed. and this amazing book is his first masterpiece; the first of many.

One of the greatest living writers. Prepare to be astonished.
I've read everything that Coetzee has written. I just finished this new book. It's small but powerful and I've just started to read it again. It's compelling and soul searching and makes me wonder about our world, my life, how our nature causes so much destruction but also how sensitive and enduring we are. It's worth a read or two.
Michael K is painted early in the novel as mentally challenged. He was born with a nearly cleft palate into disadvantaged circumstances, and spent a large part of his childhood in an austere orphanage. Nevertheless, we find him looking in on his mother, who not only is in poor health, but finds herself without a situation after some civil disorder. Given the growing challenges of mere daily existence, and her desire to go back to her hometown (to where she remembers once being at peace), Michael decides to take her there in a wheelbarrow, despite the not inconsiderable distance involved. Being exposed to the elements and some vicissitudes of the road proves too much for his mother, who dies along the way. Michael’s only real anchor to the real world appears severed, and this is where his personal journey really begins.

I very much liked Coetzee’s later work “Disgrace” and chose to read this book for that reason. Although this one was also good, is later work is better. I had a couple of my own issues with this novel, but don’t agree with some of the other reviewer criticism.

The story consists of a single straightforward story line, and is not at all a difficult read. Coetzee’s prose is very clear and blunt. However, some reviewers commented that “nothing really happens” in this novel. For those who like a fast moving tale where things are constantly “happening,” this may not be a great choice. Michael K’s existence does indeed move toward a state that would likely be described by some as stultifying. Probably a third of the book dwells solely on his struggle to survive without help or resources.

This book is really more about a man’s struggle to be himself and to be left alone to live a simple, uncomplicated existence. He is successful in hiding for a while, but the Outside is eventually able to root him out and force itself on him, despite his best efforts. The problem we see is that each part of the world that encounters Michael needs him to be “something,” to fit into a role familiar to it and that it has cast for him. For his part, he makes no demands on the world other than to ask that it make no demands on him, and the world is uncomfortable with this.

Although Michael is supposed to be slow-minded, his actions and thoughts sometimes belie this notion. For someone so simple, he seems amazingly resourceful at setting himself up for a barebones existence using whatever is at hand, for example. He has regular and acute recognition of the fact that he IS simple, a level of self-awareness that such people usually do not possess.

And as the narrator of at least two-thirds of the novel, Michael makes many observations that are far too insightful for someone of his supposedly limited emotional and mental makeup. Although this statements succeed in getting the story’s ideas to the reader, Michael himself fails as a literary device, because it is hard to accept Michael’s depths of insight and his ingenuity in a character cast as a simpleton.

One quote of Michael’s late in the book embodies both of these complaints, and seems unlikely to be made by such a character: “There is nothing to be ashamed of in being simple. They were locking up simpletons before they locked up anyone else. Now they have camps for children whose parents run away, camps for people who kick and foam at the mouth, camps for people with big heads and people with little heads, camps for people with no visible means of support, camps for people chased off the land, camps for people they find living in storm-water drains, camps for street girls, camps for people who can’t add two and two, camps for people who forget their papers at home, camps for people who live in the mountains and blow up bridges in the night. Perhaps the truth is that it is enough to be out of the camps, out of all the camps at the same time. Perhaps that is enough of an achievement, for the time being. How many people are left who are neither locked up nor standing guard at the gate? I have escaped the camps; perhaps, if I lie low, I will escape the charity too.”

Perhaps Coetzee himself recognizes that Michael carries too much of the freight, because at one point in the last half of the book, narration shifts to the third person for a time, and in this part of the book a lot of time is spent by one of the characters trying to explain Michael’s behavior both to himself and to Michael (while pleading with him to help himself). This seemed weak, as here Coetzee seems to give up on letting the story deliver the ideas, and puts some of the main ideas into the lines of a seemingly purpose-built mouthpiece, a person who makes no other real contribution to the story.

A final word about the setting: this book is set in apartheid era South Africa, and (not surprisingly) a few reviewers try to force feed some theme about apartheid into this story. Coetzee never confronts any of that in this novel. Only a historically literate reader would even think to look for apartheid’s traces in the details that make up some of the story’s backdrop, and they really won't find any. Only more attentive readers will even find themselves dwelling much on the racial identities of the characters. In his character descriptions, Coetzee never mentions apartheid in a recognizable way anywhere in the book EVEN ONCE. He is not trying to be subtle--that just isn’t what this book is about. Apartheid South Africa happens to be the background, but this story could have been set in any country in the midst of war and civil unrest and worked just as well.
This is one of the most saddest piece of literature I've ever read but it brought me to an understanding of the labels we instantly give people. Outstanding imagery and honor to the true superheroes of the world
A very well written novel. It's not a light care free story. The work is a serious study of South Africa during a time of war. Michael K was born into circumstances that put him in the lower class and suffered.
Very much worth reading.
Maybe a writer's tale but certainly not for the average reader. The novella has no story line, no goal. Well written but not worth the time. It gets a star because it is required otherwise there would be no star.
This is the first novel of Coetzee’s that I have read.
Beautifully written, telling the story of a simple man’s struggle to exist in a dystopian war torn South Africa.
At times reminded me of Kafka’s K and at times of Being There, because of the recurring gardener metaphors.
I very much enjoyed my first taste of J.M. Coetzee’s work. - Ilan Israel
“The first thing the midwife noticed about Michael K when she helped him out of his mother into the world was that he had a hare lip. The lip curled like a snail’s foot, the left nostril gaped. Obscuring the child for a moment from it’s mother, she prodded open the tiny bud of a mouth and was thankful to find the palate whole.”

In this novel by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, Michael K is a simple-minded young man, living in the middle of a civil war in South Africa. His mother, a maid in the home of a white family, is ailing. The family she works for has left the city, making no provisions to take care of their servants. She not only asks Michael to care for her, but she requests that he take her back to her home in the country.

One of the things that struck me most about this novel, was the “science fiction” feeling of the book. We have Michael, who is like a stranger in a strange land. He cannot communicate because of his deformity, and with the war going on, he is in danger from both the army and the insurgents. The countryside is devastated. It is dry and hot. There is no food anywhere. And of course, Michael is black. He does not have value here.

Yet, through it all, Michael cherishes his freedom – which is taken away on several occasions. He strives to maintain his dignity and eventually we see the light of compassion in others.

So many times in novels relating to the horrors of war in Africa, it feels like the reader is outside looking in. Coetzee is (for me at least) able to extend the feeling of what it is like to be Michael K. I really enjoyed Life & Times of Michael K and hope to read more by this author.