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Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee

Elizabeth Costello (original 2003; edition 2004)

by J. M. Coetzee

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Title:Elizabeth Costello
Authors:J. M. Coetzee
Info:Penguin Books (2004), Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library

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Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee (Author) (2003)


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English (23)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I read this just after it came out, and was pretty disappointed. Having just given it another go... I'm still disappointed. The blurbs are surely ironic: "One of Coetzee's best... an important book, extraordinary... every word counts. Every sentence lives... bracing." It is self-evidently Coetzee's worst, dull, unimportant, pointless. Only a psychologiser of authors could care about this quaquaquaqua novel, though if you're a philosopher you may get something out of the new Coetzee industry, see Mulhall's 'The Wounded Animal' etc...

I would call it an experiment, and you know what? Sometimes, in fact, usually, experiments fail. As essays or short stories the chapters 'Realism' and 'The Humanities in Africa' are pretty decent, and worth reading. It's probably no coincidence that they're the chapters with the most interesting characters and the better arguments (none of the arguments being much good, which I'm sure is the point and so on...) Putting them in with the other stuff is a disservice to those two chapters.

No, not even pretty disappointed. In fact, I'm infuriated that this got printed and put on the Booker long list. Oh well. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
"In all our talk about humanism and the humanities there was a word we both skirted: humanity. When Mary blessed among women smiles her remote angelic smile and tips her sweet pink nipple before our gaze, when I, imitating her, uncover my breasts... we perform acts of humanity. Acts like that are not available to animals, who cannot uncover themselves because they don't cover themselves. Nothing compels us to do it, Mary or me. But out of the overflow, the outflow of our human hearts we do it nevertheless: drop our robes, reveal ourselves, the life and beauty we are blessed with."-J.M. Coetzee
  Jenniferzcodex | Oct 26, 2013 |
Short stories about an Australian author, Elizabeth Costello. Most of the stories were ok - except for the last one - very good story examining at the end of the day, what is it that we really believe. Does it matter? ( )
  jmoncton | Jun 3, 2013 |
One of those books whose images stay with you but gosh, I didn't care. I just didn't care. Read this review instead.

I was describing it to a friend and she said, oh, a grade twelve book. By which she meant a book you're assigned to study in high school. ( )
  veracite | Apr 6, 2013 |
Interesting. The narrative here functions as a framing device for several lectures / monologues that, if I understand correctly, were written and/or presented before the story came together. And so we get a series of spirited discussions on meat-eating, censorship, the African novel and so on. All of it knee-deep in literary allusions and informed by a literature-heavy views on beauty, truth and the meaning of life. Much of the pleasure of this book is to read a talented professional's musings on novels, novel-writing and literature in general.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Costello is very much a writer's book, a novel written for writers or lit-crit majors. I suppose that there's plenty here for non-specialists to enjoy, but I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who isn't at least mildly interested in an academic or theoretical approach to writing. Coetzee lost me towards the end, I must admit. While I do have some background in literary studies (limited though that may be), and I was able to hang in there for the most part, the final chapter and the post-script letter I just didn't get. I had to look those up to understand what Coetzee was trying to get at. Which might not be a bad thing in and of itself, but it did make this a non-self-contained reading experience for me. But perhaps that was the point.

Still, despite the obscure allusions, I found myself looking forward to reading this book. Approached as a set of essays or lectures, this book worked for me. As a novel, much less. ( )
  Petroglyph | Sep 28, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coetzee, J. M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baiocchi, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Böhnke, ReinhildÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Calvo, JavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cossée, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lange, MonaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lauga du Plessis, CatherineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Loponen, SeppoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nolla, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pardoen, IrvingTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preis, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Il y a tout d'abord le problème de l'ouverture, c'est-à-dire comment nous faire passer d'où nous sommes, c'est-à-dire en ce moment nulle part, jusqu'à l'autre rive.
In de eerste plaats staan we voor de vraag hoe te beginnen, namelijk hoe ons te verplaatsen van de plek waar we ons bevinden en die vooralsnog nergens is, naar de andere oever.
There is first of all the problem of the opening, namely, how to get us from where we are, which is, as yet, nowhere, to the far bank.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142004812, Paperback)

For South African writer J.M. Coetzee, winner of two Booker Prizes and the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature, the world of receiving literary awards and giving speeches must be such a commonplace that he has put the circuit at the center of his book, Elizabeth Costello. As the work opens, in fact, the eponymous Elizabeth, a fictional novelist, is in Williamstown, Pennsylvania, to receive the Stowe Award. For her speech at the Williamstown's Altona College she chooses the tired topic, "What Is Realism?" and quickly loses her audience in her unfocused discussion of Kafka. From there, readers follow her to a cruise ship where she is virtually imprisoned as a celebrity lecturer to the ship's guests. Next, she is off to Appleton College where she delivers the annual Gates Lecture. Later, she will even attend a graduation speech.

Coetzee has made this project difficult for himself. Occasional writing--writing that includes graduation speeches, acceptance speeches, or even academic lectures--is a less than auspicious form around which to build a long work of fiction. A powerful central character engaged in a challenging stage of life might sustain such a work. Yet, at the start, Coetzee declares that Elizabeth is "old and tired," and her best book, The House on Eccles Street is long in her past. Elizabeth Costello lacks a progressive plot and offers little development over the course of each new performance at the lectern. Readers are given Elizabeth fully formed with only brief glimpses of her past sexual dalliances and literary efforts.

In the end, Elizabeth Costello seems undecided about its own direction. When Elizabeth is brought to a final reckoning at the gates of the afterlife, she begins to suspect that she is actually in hell, "or at least purgatory: a purgatory of clichés." Perhaps Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, which can be read as an extended critique of clichéd writing, is a portrait of this purgatory. While some readers may find Coetzee's philosophical prose sustenance enough on the journey, some will turn back at the gate. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:41 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Elizabeth Costello is a distinguished and aging Australian novelist whose life is revealed through a series of eight formal addresses. From an award-acceptance speech at a New England liberal arts college to a lecture on evil in Amsterdam and a sexually charged reading by the poet Robert Duncan, the author draws the reader toward its astonishing conclusion. The novel is, on its surface, the story of a woman's life as mother, sister, lover, and writer. Yet it is also a profound and haunting meditation on the nature of storytelling.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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