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The Childhood of Jesus by J. M. Coetzee

The Childhood of Jesus (original 2013; edition 2013)

by J. M. Coetzee

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5062129,591 (3.53)50
Title:The Childhood of Jesus
Authors:J. M. Coetzee
Info:Viking Adult (2013), Edition: First Edition Limited Issue, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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The childhood of Jesus by J. M. Coetzee (2013)



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English (16)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
The Childhood of Jesus is not for readers who demand credible characters set in credible settings with credible dialogue. Vastly removed from the stark brutality of earlier works like Waiting for the Barbarians, the ethereal, delicately surreal world created by Coetzee in The Childhood of Jesus is a fusion of Kafka’s The Castle and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, permeated by the author’s rational philosophical interests undergirded with the mysticism of mathematics. The characters are “new arrivals” on page 1, and about to become fresh “new arrivals” on the final page of the novel (277).

The book is a journey with no return in a cyclical world where sex is discussed as a philosophical issue, not as a formidable, passionate reality at the core of human experience. Unlike the extreme impotence of some of the characters in Waiting for the Barbarians, Michael K, and Foe, in this novel Coetzee presents David’s guardian / father, Simon, as a stranger in this new world of memory loss and rootlessness, a stranger because he feels an instinct for sexual connection: “I am an ordinary man with ordinary needs. . . . [And] I am starved of beauty. . . . [f]eminine beauty” (138-39). There is no reciprocal passion in the book, not a single scene of shared sexual intimacy between any of the characters. Occasionally, Elena “allows [Simon] to make love to her. . . . [but she] has little sexual feeling for him, that is clear; but he likes to think of his lovemaking as a patient and prolonged act of resuscitation, of bringing back to life a female body that for all practical purposes has died” (61).

Also, the frequent set pieces where Coetzee stages surprise philosophical discussions are almost comical, the most extreme being the entirety of Chapter 16 where Simon is unplugging a toilet while discussing the dual nature of humans—a discourse on philosophical anthropology—with David, a five-year-old boy!

Equally interesting and occasionally comic is Coetzee’s ubiquitous use of biblical echoes. The reader can’t go more than six pages in any direction without a biblical resonance; whether it’s something like “Because by football alone you cannot live” (110) on the comic side, or, “You can’t expect me to commit myself, sight unseen” (254) on the more serious side, the novel creates a Kafkaesque / Quixotic world where the characters want “to start a new life” (276). The reader never senses that Coetzee is presenting a simplistic quest, however, because “They have no map. [They have] no idea what lies ahead on the road. In silence they drive on” (262). And yet, the book does imply the opposite of nihilism as “All great gifts come out of nowhere” (263). ( )
  VicCavalli | Dec 8, 2018 |
This slim novel made for an interesting read, though I can't say what it was really about. I say this because it's an allegorical tale, and while I don't mind allegories per se, I very rarely am able to find the underlying message unless it's kindly spelled out for me. In this story we have an older man and a five-year-old boy who arrive in a new land where they are made to adopt new names (David for the boy, Simón for the man) and must learn to speak Spanish. This country is never named, though we are told most of the events take place in the city of Novilla. This is where all the residents arrive and go through the same process as immigrants, and are expected to leave the past behind. In this place there is a collective amnesia about the past and little understanding of appreciation for passionate desires, be they sexual or food-related.

Simón took David under his wing when the boy was found wandering on the incoming boat on his own. David had carried a letter with him, probably relating who his parents were and who would pick him up on arrival, but this letter was lost. Simón decides they will find David's real mother somehow, and not long after settling down, getting a job as a stevedore and a reasonably comfortable apartment, he briefly meets a woman, Inès and immediately decides because of some gut feeling he has, that she is the boy's mother. He somehow convinces Inès of this too, and she eagerly overpampers David by giving in to his every whim, preventing him from playing with other boys (a bad influence), or from going to school (he's too clever for school). Simón keeps a daily contact with them, and decides to teach David to read and write by giving him an abridged young reader copy of Don Qixote. When the boy is forcibly sent to school because of local regulations, he is found to be disruptive in class and refuses to learn his lessons along with everyone. As I said, I never did find out the why of the novel's title. I suppose we are meant to draw parallels between David and the young Jesus, but I couldn't say for sure. The book is written very simply and mostly in dialogue, and the characters are intriguing enough to keep the reader interested. I'll be interested to read some reviews to see what other readers have made of this tale. ( )
  Smiler69 | Aug 7, 2016 |
Don't know what to say about this book. It drew me in to keep on reading it though it had no plot. Perhaps it was the language, though plainspoken and straightforward. The central dilemma was pretty much solved half way through. The chapters were like a series of dreamscapes. I could recognize certain truths and universals and then the story would just fade away and something else would come up. The allegorical aspect was quite tiresome to me -- I'm not back in school to strain my brain to get what he might be signifying all the time. And then the child -- how obnoxious and unsympathetic for such a grand title. Interesting that I cannot come up with tags for this book. ( )
  amaraki | Sep 3, 2015 |
A post-apocalyptic or dystopian feel to it which reminded me of Margaret Atwood but we never learn what has happened to the world as we know it. The "gifted" David is a strange child who's otherness is heightened by how normal everybody else seems. Simon does his best for him but the assignment of the child to a stranger to be his mother remains vague. Memorable. ( )
  aine.fin | Aug 10, 2015 |
Mettiamola così: con un Gesù come questo il cristianesimo non sarebbe mai esistito. Forse una setta di psicolabili si', perché il loro messia sarebbe stato tirato su a calci in culo.
Per il resto, Coetzee fa sognare all'inizio, e anche dopo un po': non so se è l'edizione Einaudi o il mondo senza luogo e senza tempo. Fattosta' che mi ricorda Cecità, questo racconto lungo. Alcuni personaggi irritanti, si sente molto il distacco tra il mondo nuovo e il mondo vecchio, rappresentato da Simon. In alcuni punti didascalico, e ne soffre.
Mi verrebbe da dire: una bella intuizione, leggermente sprecata.
(per tacer del titolo) ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. M. Coetzeeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The man at the gate points them towards a low, sprawling building in the middle distance. "If you hurry," he says, "you can check in before they close their doors for the day."
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"A major new novel from the Nobel Prize-winning author of Waiting for the Barbarians, The Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace Nobel laureate and two-time Booker Prize winner J. M. Coetzee returns with a haunting and surprising novel about childhood and destiny that is sure to rank with his classic novels. Separated from his mother as a passenger on a boat bound for a new land, David is a boy who is quite literally adrift. The piece of paper explaining his situation is lost, but a fellow passenger, Simâon, vows to look after the boy. When the boat docks, David and Simâon are issued new names, new birthdays, and virtually a whole new life. Strangers in a strange land, knowing nothing of their surroundings, nor the language or customs, they are determined to find David's mother. Though the boy has no memory of her, Simâon is certain he will recognize her at first sight. "But after we find her," David asks, "what are we here for?" An eerie allegorical tale told largely through dialogue, The Childhood of Jesus is a literary feat-a novel of ideas that is also a tender, compelling narrative. Coetzee's many fans will celebrate his return while new readers will find The Childhood of Jesus an intriguing introduction to the work of a true master"--… (more)

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