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Life & Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee

Life & Times of Michael K (1983)

by J. M. Coetzee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (44)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Michael is a gardener. This is all he knows, other than the relationship with his mother. The pair live in Cape Town South Africa and when the war breaks out they decide to leave the city for the place of her birth. However, they are stopped many times and made to turn back before Michael takes the trip into his own hands.

This book is once again a 1001 lister. I'm not sure how I feel about it, I didn't hate it but didn't love it either. I'm on the fence about this one. I liked the persistence and determination that Michael demonstrated however, there weren't a lot of action senses to really keep you engaged. This is a book that I'm unsure of if I would recommend it or if I would say read at your own discretion, however, a fast read none the less. ( )
  welkeral | Mar 20, 2016 |
A very quick read but one that packs a lot into it. Michael K decides to embark on a journey with his sick mother to Prince Albert, where his mother grew up. She dies along the way (fairly early on) but Michael's journey continues. Surviving in a war-torn country, the threat of being shot, taken prisoner, arrested and put into one of the camps as a vagrant are all realities for him. Yet Michael is determined to live off the land and find his own freedom. I think the sharpest point that comes across is the brutality of war and its effects upon normal citizens. There is no work, so people are forced into the cities, but with no work there, many face starvation. Michael's story is that of an individual in a conflict that affects everyone. A hard-hitting read but one that I think deserves to be on the 1001 Books you Must Read before you Die list. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
This is one of those magical books that will change you, at least temporarily. When I finished it there was a time where I felt less need. ( )
1 vote Lukerik | Oct 20, 2015 |
" The grain of his sentences is flat and austere, but also so purifying to the senses that one comes away feeling that one's eye has been sharpened, one's hearing vivified

To Michael K at the start of the journey, brutality and danger and stiffness of limb and rain seem all the same; tyranny feels as natural an ordeal as the harshness of the road. "

from A TALE OF HEROIC ANONYMITY (December 11, 1983, NYTimes Sunday Book Review, Cynthia Ozick)

"here is a man who is alone, more alone than I have ever been … Because here's the thing. I have a family and I have friends and if somehing happens to me they care. And I have this government that would give me money if I had none. And when I was sick I got the best medical care around, and it was free, because there's this attitude here that I matter and that everyone matters enough to deserve the same. And then there is Michael K, who doesn't matter to anyone, and all he wants to do is be left alone, but the establishment can't even do that. "

from C. (placematsgalore) on goodreads

Yes, many echoes of the escape artist, of The Hunger Artist, of much more of Kafka, of Bartleby, Being There, etc

Not many people seem to like the three shifts of perspective. My own reading is that they were requisite to the structure of the narrative as the enactment of the content. The feeling of Coetzee himself resisting the character & the tyranny of the writing gives the misleading sense that it is a junior effort, rather than a profound, incandescent awkwardness. ( )
  cancione | Jan 17, 2015 |
What an awesome book by an amazingly talented author. This is a story of a young man who despite the war all around him is determined to live his life his own way and the country that opposes him. ( )
  mlbelize | Jan 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
But in spite of such pleasures, I have serious doubts. My main concern is Michael K himself. He's more of a plot device than a real man, and we are constantly reminded how simple Michael is, and how little he understands .
added by Nickelini | editThe Guardian, Sam Jordison (Jun 16, 2009)
And so J.M. Coetzee has written a marvelous work that leaves nothing unsaid—and could not be better said—about what human beings do to fellow human beings in South Africa; but he does not recognize what the victims, seeing themselves as victims no longer, have done, are doing, and believe they must do for themselves. Does this prevent his from being a great novel? My instinct is to say a vehement "No." But the organicism that George Lukács defines as the integral relation between private and social destiny is distorted here more than is allowed for by the subjectivity that is in every writer. The exclusion is a central one that may eat out the heart of the work's unity of art and life.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Nadine Gordimer (pay site) (Feb 2, 1984)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. M. Coetzeeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aguiar, João Baptista da CostaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baiocchi, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brunse, NielsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dominik, PavelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernandes, RicardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Forsberg, PiaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giachino, EnzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greiff, AudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Konikowska, MagdalenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Loponen, SeppoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manella, ConchaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mayoux, SophieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preis, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ross, KárolyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siqueira, José RubensTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoepman gvn, FritsCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teichmann, WulfÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Udina, DolorsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Бужаровска… РуменаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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War is the father of all and king of all.
Some he shows as gods, others as men.
Some he makes slaves, and others free.
First words
The first thing the midwife noticed about Michael K when she helped him out of his mother into the world was that he had a hare lip.
He fetched the box of ashes from the house, set it in the middle of the rectangle, and say down to wait. He did not know what he expected; whatever it was, it did not happen. A beetle scurried across the ground. The wind blew. There was a cardboard box standing in the sunlight on a patch of baked mud, nothing more. There was another step, apparently, that he had to take but could not yet imagine.
Twelve men eat six bags of potatoes. Each bag holds six kilograms of potatoes. What is the quotient. He saw himself write down 12, he saw himself write down 6. He did not know what to do with the numbers. He crossed both out. He stared at the word quotient. It did not change, it did not dissolve, it did not yield its mystery. I will die, he thought, still not knowing what the quotient is.
He is like a stone, a pebble that, having lain around quietly minding its own business since the dawn of time, is now suddenly picked up and tossed randomly from hand to hand. He passes through these institutions and camps and hospitals and God knows what else like a stone. Through the intestines of the war. An unbearing, unborn creature. I cannot really think of him as a man…
[Your stay in the camp] was an allegory – speaking at the highest level – of how scandalously, how outrageously a meaning can take up residence in a system without becoming a term in it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140074481, Paperback)

In a South Africa turned by war, Michael K. sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. This life affirming novel goes to the center of human experience—the need for an interior, spiritual life; for some connections to the world in which we live; and for purity of vision.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In South Africa, whose civil administration is collapsing under the pressure of years of civil strife, an obscure young gardener named Michael K decides to take his mother on a long march away from the guns towards a new life in the abandoned countryside. Everywhere he goes however, the war follows him. Tracked down and locked up as a collaborator with the rural guerrillas, he embarks on a fast that angers, baffles, and finally awes his captors. The story of Michael K is the story of a man caught up in a war beyond his understanding, but determined to live his life, however minimally, on his own terms.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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