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J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee , in full John Maxwell Coetzee (born February 9, 1940, Cape Town, South Africa), South African novelist, critic, and translator noted for his novels about the effects of colonization. In 2003 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Coetzee was educated at the University of Cape Town (B.A., 1960; M.A., 1963) and the University of Texas (Ph.D., 1969). An opponent of apartheid, he nevertheless returned to live in South Africa, where he taught English at the University of Cape Town, translated works from the Dutch, and wrote literary criticism. He also held visiting professorships at a number of universities.

Dusklands (1974), Coetzee’s first book, contains two novellas united in their exploration of colonization, The Vietnam Project (set in the United States in the late 20th century) and The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee (set in 18th-century South Africa). In the Heart of the Country (1977; also published as From the Heart of the Country; filmed as Dust, 1986) is a stream-of-consciousness narrative of a Boer madwoman, and Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), set in some undefined borderland, is an examination of the ramifications of colonization. Life & Times of Michael K (1983), which won the Booker Prize, concerns the dilemma of a simple man beset by conditions he can neither comprehend nor control during a civil war in a future South Africa.

Coetzee continued to explore themes of the colonizer and the colonized in Foe (1986), his reworking of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Coetzee’s female narrator comes to new conclusions about power and otherness and ultimately concludes that language can enslave as effectively as can chains. In Age of Iron (1990) Coetzee dealt directly with circumstances in contemporary South Africa, but in The Master of Petersburg (1994) he made reference to 19th-century Russia (particularly to Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s work The Devils); both books treat the subject of literature in society. In 1999, with his novel Disgrace, Coetzee became the first writer to win the Booker Prize