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Summertime: Fiction by J. M. Coetzee

Summertime: Fiction (edition 2009)

by J. M. Coetzee

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Title:Summertime: Fiction
Authors:J. M. Coetzee
Info:Viking Adult (2009), Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

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Summertime: Scenes from Provincial Life by J. M. Coetzee


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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
the author becomes the interviewer reconstructing the life of the author by interviewing lovers, acquaintances and family. An odd twist to memoir. Writing from the vantage point of his lovers who berate his style and intimacy and question his realness as a poet and writer. ( )
  objectplace | Jun 23, 2014 |
I officially don't get what Coetzee's doing anymore. This book is compulsively, beautifully readable, while also being almost completely uninteresting. It seems to be not much more than a congeries of portraits, all but one of women who all - even the Brazilian woman - talk like the narrator of any given Coetzee novel. They're individualized, no doubt, and quite impressive each in their own way. And the obvious point, that this is a kind of autobiography which recognizes the importance of other people to any given life, is a decent enough one in its way. But what's really happened is that Coetzee has given up. He's no longer willing to say "this I wrote, I made it true." Now we need multiple perspectives. There are no more of those moments which strike the character of Boyhood and Youth, when an objectivity is granted to him. Now objectivity is apparently impossible. The strength it must take for a man to dissect himself, as Coetzee did in the earlier 'memoirs' is left behind; now we just have other peoples' opinions on him.

All the old themes are here, it's true: appearance vs essence, the romantic 'inner flame,' desire and art etc... but much less powerfully (either emotionally or intellectually) than in Boyhood or Youth, and far, far, less powerfully than in The Master of Petersburg. Too bad. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
I guess I'm supposed to know who this writer is since he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003 but really I don't know, I just happened to pick up the book for some reason and decided to read it on vacation. I wish I could say that I'm up on contemporary fiction but actually I'm not. I remember thinking I should probably be paying attention to small press fiction instead of wasting my time on stuff like this. It wasn't that memorable, other than that the main character is named after the author. This was kind of pretentious/narcissistic or whatever but also what I liked most about reading the book. It sort of inverts the narrative structure of The Sorrows of Young Werther, in that it tells the story of a man's life from the point of view of three women who are remembering him in terms of their relationship to him. This is what the story is about really. In Werther, Goethe never lets Charlotte act on her own, the reader only knows her through Werther's eyes, but that is not a part of the storytelling I don't think, it just sort of is. Man = actor Women = object that is acted upon, Etc. Using the device Doris Lessing made famous in The Golden Notebook, the reader also reads Coetze's notebook entries. The reader ends up having to piece together different perspectives to complete the picture. ( )
  tvgrl | Jul 26, 2013 |
Not Coetzee at his best but no Coetzee is bad. I enjoyed this book. He chose an unusual structure and it works. We are still in Coetzeeland, that is South Africa and the Afrikaners. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Jun 30, 2013 |
In this his third fictional autobiography, Coetzee portrays the early adulthood of a man very much like himself — with even the same name, "John Coetzee" — with similar origins and history (born into an English-speaking Afrikaner family near Capetown, returned to South Africa after some years abroad including the US, later to become a well-known writer). However this fictional John Coetzee is now dead, and what we learn about this period of his life, in his 30s and before he achieved fame as a writer, comes from journal notes and interviews by an English academic of people who were somehow involved with him then: a suburban housewife in an adulterous affair, an Afrikaans-speaking cousin with whom he had as a child fantasized marriage, a younger French woman and college-teaching colleague who saw her affair with him as a way to overcome a bad marriage, a Brazilian woman he ineffectually pursued, and a male teaching colleague with whom he had a cordial but rather distant friendship. The Coetzee portrayed here is a man very sensitive to injustice, hopelessly incompetent socially, who has left his acquaintances somewhat puzzled that he ever amounted to anything. Certainly, to some extent this is an effort by the author to see himself as others see him (as the Burns poem has it), but the novel is not so much about a real John Coetzee as about South Africa in the 1970s, the limitations and hypocrisies in Afrikaner culture, the indifference of most of the world (at least in that setting) to the literature that so much matters to the fictional and to the real John Coetzee. Besides the self-deprecating and often very amusing tone of the central protrait, the book offers clear-eyed, unsentimental perceptions of Afrikaner self-isolation (with a language spoken nowhere else in the world, as the fictitious Coetzee has jotted in his journal), the mind-dulling routines of college ritual, and the sharply contrasting concepts of manliness as between the protagonist himself and, most sharply, the Brazilian widow who remembers her big, bold husband. ( )
1 vote gefox | Nov 12, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
As long as one character speaks, Coetzee's masterful style is on display. But when there is dialogue between investigator and interviewee, the contrivance becomes all too evident: There is no real exchange and no discernable setting.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Martin Puchner (Dec 1, 2009)
Now we have Summertime, the third in Coetzee's ongoing volumes of more or less fictionalised memoir that began with Boyhood, continued with Youth and are subtitled Scenes from Provincial Life.

These volumes are not to be taken as literal truth, a fact underlined by the way in Summertime one John Coetzee, a famous Nobel prize-winning novelist, is dead and an Englishman who never met him is attempting to write a biography of him on the basis of interviews with a number of women who had an effect on his development.

The last part of the book is made up of extracts from his journal entries focused on his ageing and ailing father, who appears intermittently in the preceding pages as a frail and constricting figure. The account of the father has, in a way nothing else in this book does, an overwhelming poignancy.

Much of this weird book is a meditation on the absurdity of the fame that is the surface noise of a hypothetical immortality. Then there's the grief that throws it all away and in doing so throws it into high relief.
added by justjim | editThe Age, Peter Craven (Sep 5, 2009)
Who is JM Coetzee? In one sense the answer is obvious: world-famous novelist and writer, twice winner of the Man Booker, winner of the Nobel prize for literature. But in another sense “JM Coetzee” is a persona created by the author, especially in his ­volumes of “fictionalised memoir”. The first of these, Boyhood, describes the character’s upbringing in the 1940s and 1950s on a bleak housing estate east of Cape Town. Top of his class yet fearing failure, he is gawky, unsocial and eccentric. The second, Youth, ­follows his glum fortunes in the early 1960s through a wet, foggy London, where, “dull and ordinary”, he nurtures dreams of ­artistic triumph while toiling as an IBM programmer. Literary success, he believes, will be linked with success as a lover, once he encounters the “Destined One”: the woman to inspire him. But his ­sexual entanglements, though surprisingly frequent, prove messy, sordid, embarrassing or boring. He is not, it seems, “built for fun”.

Now the third volume of the ­trilogy, Summertime, focuses on his return to South Africa, covering 1972 to 1977 when he was “finding his feet as a writer”. Like Boyhood and Youth, it refers to “Coetzee” in the third person (“He is the product of a damaged childhood”), thus distancing the autobiographical element. But it adds a startling new dimension of literary artifice: the deployment of a postmortem biographer. For Coetzee, we learn, has died in Australia. An English researcher, Vincent, who never met him, is interviewing five figures crucial to his life in the years when he started to publish. Four of them are women, including two former lovers. Supposed transcripts of their interviews make up most of the book. The rest ­comprises extracts, real or invented, from Coetzee’s contemporary ­notebooks.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Times, David Grylls (Aug 23, 2009)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coetzee, J. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In yesterday's Sunday Times, a report from Francistown in Botswana. Sometime last week, in the middle of the night, a car, a white American model, drove up to a house in a residential area. Men wearing balaclavas jumped out, kicked down the front door, and began shooting. When they had done with shooting they set fire to the house and drove off. From the embers the neighbors dragged seven charred bodies: two men, three women, two children.
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In this autobiographical novel, a young English biographer is researching a book about the late South African writer John Coetzee, focusing on Coetzee in his thirties, at a time when he was living in a rundown cottage in the Cape Town suburbs with his widowed father--a time, the biographer is convinced, when Coetzee was finding himself as a writer.… (more)

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