J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing; Face to Face With Time
J. M. Coetzee is one of the most revered but elusive of authors in world literature. In J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing, David Attwell gets closer to the genesis of Coetzee’s authorship than any other study to date. Using the author’s papers housed at the Ransom Centre of the University of Texas at Austin, Attwell describes Coetzee’s often-surprising beginnings and follows the fiction’s development through its idiosyncrasies and triumphs. This is an unusual critical biography, which tells a moving story about one of the most fascinating authorships of our time.
The Life of Writing gives us a behind-the-scenes view of such literary masterpieces as Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians and Life & Times of Michael K. By comparing J.M. Coetzee’s manuscripts in several stages of writing, we discover some of the magic of one of the world’s most important contemporary writers. The Life of Writing is an essential study for all who have read and loved Coetzee’s novels and fascinating insight in the mind of the Nobel Prize winner of 2003.
Whereas J.C. Kannemeyer’s biography (J.M. Coetzee; A Life in Writing, 2011) concentrates on Coetzee’s life, David Attwell focuses on the relationship between the work and the author, as this emerges from the manuscripts and the published novels. Attwell discovers that Coetzee is a meticulous writer, rewriting almost every sentence, who is not afraid to drastically alter storylines, settings and perspectives while writing his novels. And although the finished novels are distant from the author, Attwell finds that the start of every book is very personal.
The Life of Writing is a unique book on the authorship of J.M. Coetzee. For his devoted readers, for those who appreciate good literature and for writers who want to learn more about this fascinating creative process.
Praise for J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing:
'The best book of 2015.' - Arnon Grunberg
"A study of manuscripts and notebooks may sound like a dry exercise in scholarship, but David Attwell's book is nothing of the sort. It is a fascinating, highly readable, and tremendously insightful account of the processes through which some of the greatest novels of our time came into being, and in telling this story Attwell shows in illuminating detail the inseparability of Coetzee's creative activity from the significant events of his life." - Derek Attridge, University of York
"With exemplary care, clarity, and sensitivity David Attwell shows just how illuminating a literary biography can be. Unfailingly interesting and insightful, this invaluable work is, above all, a pleasure to read." - Zoë Wicomb
"David Attwell's J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing sheds startling new light on the relentless process of making and remaking that has produced the 2003 Nobel Prize-winner's oeuvre. In a series of readings outstanding for their meticulousness, care and sensitivity, Attwell gives us a study of J.M. Coetzee in time, yet also, ultimately, beyond time, confirmed in his position as one of the great writers of the late twentieth century. Charting Attwell's encounter with the remarkable Coetzee archive in Austin, Texas, the book is marked throughout by Attwell's palpable passion for Coetzee's writing, and evident love of the birth-land he shares with his subject. With this book our understanding of this writer's life's work, as well as of the work of a life, especially, but not only, that of Coetzee, is transformed." - Elleke Boehmer, Professor of World Literature in English, University of Oxford