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Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee

Elizabeth Costello (original 2003; edition 2004)

by J. M. Coetzee

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2,083373,175 (3.4)148
Title:Elizabeth Costello
Authors:J. M. Coetzee
Info:Penguin Books (2004), Paperback, 240 pages
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Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee (2003)

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English (30)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All (37)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Not really to my taste. Didn't like Elizabeth and found the musings mostly uninteresting. ( )
  kale.dyer | May 3, 2017 |
Literary and well written, except that I found the rambling thoughts hard to read. This isn't an easy book but neither is it difficult. There are some heavy subjects. Elizabeth Costello is a nonfiction writer, an elderly intellect sometimes asked to speak at events around the world. Her married son sometimes accompanies her on these missions to take care of her. Elizabeth looks inward, reflects on events in her life, rambles during her speeches such that it embarrasses her son and leaves the audience scratching their heads at times. She has taken up the cause of animal rights in her advancing age, in a philosophical way. She wants audiences to understand her various philosophies but they generally don't always. So the issue of a sharp mind in old age, the son as protector, and reflections on the past come clear in the story.

The writing is stunning, but I felt I would get more from the book on a second reading. That's highly personal. The philosophical rambling can be hard to follow or read. I always feel as though this author's writing is just over my head and I need to work harder to grasp it well. The latter bits of the book are easier and more interesting, and this is a good story with plenty of tender moments and sadness too. End of life issues.

What happens to a sharp mind as it ages? Younger people never really understand and even if they could, it isn't easy. The last part of this book is utterly unforgettable. This author seems extremely good at that sort of writing. The author is a Nobel Prize winner in Literature -- brilliant but a bit hard to read. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
187) Elizabeth Costello J M Coetzee

This is a difficult one for me to star and review as for the entire time I was reading it I have been ill which means I wasnt really concentrating on reading, that said it is a very disjointed book.

The chapters or 8 lessons as they are called had largely been published before as stand alone works not stories more essays and debates, the only thing tying them together is the main character and the fact that the work appears to move chronologically through her later life.

I think Coetzee has done a good job of capturing the thoughts and doubts of a woman used to being acclaimed wherever she went and now facing that the best years are behind her and she will be remembered for past achievements rather than future work.

The book is more a series of arguments questioning morality and life and the last full chapter is a bizarre parody of Kafkas works that I have interpreted in what may be the complete wrong way.

I cannot say I hated this book but nor did I find it particulary enjoyable either the best I can say is so so, but again that may be down to me being ill and not the writing at all who knows. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Ultimately a very philosophical book, delivered mainly through literary lectures of the title character (an aged writer), and academic panel talks she attends. She advocates for animal rights early-on but by novel's end she is unfocused, even confused. Coetzee's writing is sharp as always for me, but the book becomes muddled in its intellectualism. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Jul 8, 2015 |
I enjoyed this one. It is the second Coetzee for me. In this book, the author writes about an aging woman author. He covers topics of realism, African literature, animal rights, humanities, religion (Gods, God). These could be essays rather than a complete story but they are connected by the protagonist, Elizabeth, who is telling or thinking the essays. I found it interesting that this male author chose a woman to write about writing. I also learned that Coetzee, considered to be an author of South Africa, lives in Australia. Elizabeth Costello lives in Australia. This book examines African literature and whether African literature is different because the African tells the story from oral traditions. The animal rights section wasn't so good and as those that heard the essay were offended, it was offensive. The argument of humanity verses religion was most interesting. The author examines Catholic religion and humanity through a visit to African by Elizabeth as the guest of her sister, who is a Sister (nun). Mostly this book is about writing. It names many authors and works and Elizabeth is most famous for a book that she wrote about Marion Bloom, wife of Leopold Bloom, principal character of Ulysses by James Joyce. ( )
  Kristelh | Dec 6, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coetzee, J. M.primary 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:38 -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)

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