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Summertime

Summertime

Book rating: 04 Hardback

By (author) J. M. Coetzee

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  • Publisher: HARVILL SECKER
  • Format: Hardback | 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 222mm x 26mm | 401g
  • Publication date: 14 September 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1846553180
  • ISBN 13: 9781846553189
  • Sales rank: 48,706

Product description

A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972-1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father. This, the biographer senses, is the period when he was 'finding his feet as a writer'. Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him - a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider, someone who tried to flee the tribe and has now returned, chastened. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time. Sometimes heartbreaking, often very funny, "Summertime" shows us a great writer as he limbers up for his task. It completes the majestic trilogy of fictionalised memoir begun with "Boyhood" and "Youth".

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Author information

J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting For the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, 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 Gil Barrow 09 Oct 2009 4

Having read a couple of Coetzee's novels (Disgrace, Michael K), I was slightly wrongfooted by this book, which blurs the lines between fact and fiction - is it an autobiographical novel, or a fictionalised autobiography? It's slightly unnerving that Coetzee imagines a time after his death, but the cool distancing effect he uses in his fiction works well, as he examines his own life through the perspective of others. Perhaps not a complete triumph, but a very interesting experiment, and recommended as such.

Review quote

"Coetzee has always been a writer with a cold eye and here he turns that eye on himself...there is something satisfying in the bleakness, in Coetzee's refusal to present the world other than it appears to him, and to subject his character to this cool, unforgiving analysis." Allan Massie, The Scotsman