The Childhood of Jesus

The Childhood of Jesus

Book rating: 03 Paperback

By (author) J. M. Coetzee

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  • Publisher: HARVILL SECKER
  • Format: Paperback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 135mm x 216mm x 22mm | 352g
  • Publication date: 3 July 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1846557380
  • ISBN 13: 9781846557385
  • Sales rank: 40,697

Product description

After crossing oceans, a man and a boy arrive in a new land. Here they are each assigned a name and an age, and held in a camp in the desert while they learn Spanish, the language of their new country. As Simon and David they make their way to the relocation centre in the city of Novilla, where officialdom treats them politely but not necessarily helpfully. Simon finds a job in a grain wharf. The work is unfamiliar and backbreaking, but he soon warms to his stevedore comrades, who during breaks conduct philosophical dialogues on the dignity of labour, and generally take him to their hearts. Now he must set about his task of locating the boy's mother. Though like everyone else who arrives in this new country he seems to be washed clean of all traces of memory, he is convinced he will know her when he sees her. And indeed, while walking with the boy in the countryside Simon catches sight of a woman he is certain is the mother, and persuades her to assume the role. David's new mother comes to realise that he is an exceptional child, a bright, dreamy boy with highly unusual ideas about the world. But the school authorities detect a rebellious streak in him and insist he be sent to a special school far away. His mother refuses to yield him up, and it is Simon who must drive the car as the trio flees across the mountains. THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS is a profound, beautiful and continually surprising novel from a very great writer.

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Author information

J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting For the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Summertime, Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 06 Mar 2013 3

The Childhood of Jesus is the twelfth stand-alone novel by award-winning author, J.M.Coetzee. David and Simon are newly arrived in the town of Novilla, after being processed at a camp where they were arbitrarily assigned new names and birthdates, and learned some basic Spanish. David was separated from his parents and, on the boat journey to his new country, has lost any information that he once had about them, so Simon decides to help him find his mother. In common with all the townspeople, they arrived washed of memories, but Simon is convinced he will know David's mother when he sees her. In this environment without any history, the residents count themselves lucky not to suffer from memories of their past and concentrate on making a new life: goodwill and tolerance is common, but passion and yearning are virtually absent. In this slightly bizarre, seemingly third-world and possibly post-apocalyptic setting, Coetzee uses the encounters his characters have with neighbours, officials, work colleagues and random strangers to philosophise about various aspects of life: attraction and beauty; self-belief; work that fulfils; progress; the reality of history; rules and non-conformity; power and law-enforcement; and whether philosophical non-conformity warrants punishment. The novel has a tongue-in-cheek quality: the humour is often warped; there are Biblical undertones and parts are decidedly surreal. The feel of this new world is well conveyed, although readers may find the characters difficult to relate to, as nothing is ordinary in the world Coetzee has created. This is certainly unlike any other novel I have read: a unique experience.

Review quote

"Double Booker Prize-winner Coetzee's fable has a dream-like, Kafkaesque quality. Are we in some kind of heaven, purgatory or simply another staging post of existence? Clear answers are elusive, but this is a riveting, thought-provoking read and surely Coetzee's best novel since Disgrace more than a decade ago" -- John Harding Daily Mail "Written with all of Coetzee's penetrating rigour, it will be an early contender for an unprecedented third Booker prize" -- Tim Adams Observer "Reading JM Coetzee is like swimming in a sea with a calm surface and a savage undertow. His sentences are lean; his subjects menacing: power, race, animal rights and confession" Intelligent Life