n English in Africa - biography : J. M. Coetzee's and

Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



The first volume of J. M. Coetzee's autobiography - or autobiographical fiction - , appeared in 1997 and its sequel, , in 2002. A striking feature of both these works is that the author, while naming the protagonist within them John Coetzee, refers to this younger self in the third person. This led the reviewer, Peter Porter, to decide that was a novel, and to compare it inappropriately with (Porter 2002). Porter was the wrong choice as reviewer : he has not read, and knows no reason why he should have read . Indeed, he must also have read rapidly and carelessly. He has no idea of the complex relationship of intimacy and detachment which Coetzee has achieved with his protagonist, most obviously through his use of the third person, but also through other, more delicate strategies of distancing, the most pervasive of which is that of the 'immanent voice' which signals to the reader that s/he must go beyond the obvious indications of the text to understand fully what the author intends.

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