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Youth (2002)

by J. M. Coetzee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Coetzee's Scenes from Provincial Life (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,7204210,236 (3.65)99
The second instalment of J. M. Coetzee's fictionalised 'memoir' is a remarkable portrait of a consciousness, isolated and adrift, turning in on itself, of a young man struggling to find his way in the world, written with tenderness and a fierce clarity. He has escaped South Africa. Everything is going well, he has attained his first goal, he ought to be happy. In fact, as the weeks pass, he finds himself more and more miserable. In this unforgiving portrait of the artist as a young man, John flees his apartheid-riven homeland for the bleak London of the early 1960s, where he aspires to become a writer. There he becomes trapped in stultifying computer-programming work and brief, unsatisfying affairs, turning ever inwards in the struggle to realise his ambitions.… (more)
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» See also 99 mentions

English (23)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (3)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  Akkadian (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
The bleak and ever so real feeling life of a member of the white South African diaspora. ( )
  brakketh | Mar 5, 2023 |
Another stellar read from Coetzee. I started this and next minute I was looking at the free end page...I devoured it. Not much happens, traditionally plot wise. But I couldn't help but see myself in this book, with the characters musings on poetry, the minor tragedies of an artist trying to find his art, in a world heavily reliant on pathetic and mundane rituals, also known as making a living. ( )
  jaydenmccomiskie | Sep 27, 2021 |
How do bitter and twisted, lonely, emotionally crippled older men start out? Men whose relationships, if any, have always soured early, men whose jobs are all that sustain them, mediocre jobs with colleagues who never become friends. Men whose strict weekend routines stop loneliness from being more than an uneasy feeling which never quite comes to the surface. Never quite acknowledged.

They start out as bitter and twisted Youth. In this novel by Coetzee, we see the establishment of such a being, a young man who thinks somehow that his cold alienating ways will make him a poet. When it turns out that he has nothing more in him than the capacity to be a computer programmer, and an undistinguished one of those, he sees his future as a hollow meaningless thing. We do not find out if his life remained the mean and nasty existence he portended.

Enter Nagasaki. Here we meet a man who might be the person Youth foresaw. Towards the end of his nondescript career he is alone, as far as we know he has never had a meaningful relationship with anybody, including his relations. When not at work he is at home, when at home, the person he talks to is himself. He has no friends, no interests, nothing about him justifies his carbon footprint. Like Youth, he is given the opportunity to live, to behave with largesse, to give. Like Youth he cannot do that. Both of them experience discomfort, unease at their utter meanness of spirit, but neither is capable of being a new person.

Is this inevitable? Enter Mr Stone of Mr Stone and the Knights Companion.

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/studies-in-bitter-and-twi... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
How do bitter and twisted, lonely, emotionally crippled older men start out? Men whose relationships, if any, have always soured early, men whose jobs are all that sustain them, mediocre jobs with colleagues who never become friends. Men whose strict weekend routines stop loneliness from being more than an uneasy feeling which never quite comes to the surface. Never quite acknowledged.

They start out as bitter and twisted Youth. In this novel by Coetzee, we see the establishment of such a being, a young man who thinks somehow that his cold alienating ways will make him a poet. When it turns out that he has nothing more in him than the capacity to be a computer programmer, and an undistinguished one of those, he sees his future as a hollow meaningless thing. We do not find out if his life remained the mean and nasty existence he portended.

Enter Nagasaki. Here we meet a man who might be the person Youth foresaw. Towards the end of his nondescript career he is alone, as far as we know he has never had a meaningful relationship with anybody, including his relations. When not at work he is at home, when at home, the person he talks to is himself. He has no friends, no interests, nothing about him justifies his carbon footprint. Like Youth, he is given the opportunity to live, to behave with largesse, to give. Like Youth he cannot do that. Both of them experience discomfort, unease at their utter meanness of spirit, but neither is capable of being a new person.

Is this inevitable? Enter Mr Stone of Mr Stone and the Knights Companion.

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/studies-in-bitter-and-twi... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
I read this book before I should have done, I suppose - it's the second volume in a trilogy called 'Scenes from Provincial Life', and I haven't read the first one. That fact notwithstanding, I enjoyed 'Youth' tremendously. The story charts the narrator's early academic career in South Africa, followed by relocation to the UK, where he struggles to manage the demands of working for a living against his writing aspirations.

Coetzee's style makes reading the book an easy matter, although what most writers would simply declare, he instead opts to show through a question, and by the time you reach the end of the book the number of rhetorical questions asked of the narrator must surely be approaching a thousand. If you're happy to accept this - as I was - you will find here a book with a clear and cogent voice; others might find the approach a touch grating. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Sep 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coetzee, J. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Preis, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Wer den Dichter will verstehen
muß in Dichters Lande gehen.
- Goethe
Dedication
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He lives in a one-room flat near Mowbray railway station, for which he pays eleven guineas a month.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The second instalment of J. M. Coetzee's fictionalised 'memoir' is a remarkable portrait of a consciousness, isolated and adrift, turning in on itself, of a young man struggling to find his way in the world, written with tenderness and a fierce clarity. He has escaped South Africa. Everything is going well, he has attained his first goal, he ought to be happy. In fact, as the weeks pass, he finds himself more and more miserable. In this unforgiving portrait of the artist as a young man, John flees his apartheid-riven homeland for the bleak London of the early 1960s, where he aspires to become a writer. There he becomes trapped in stultifying computer-programming work and brief, unsatisfying affairs, turning ever inwards in the struggle to realise his ambitions.

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