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Waiting for the Barbarians (1980)

by J. M. Coetzee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,644682,432 (3.96)165
For decades the Magistrate has run the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement, ignoring the impending war between the barbarians and the Empire. When the interrogation experts arrive he is jolted into sympathy with the victims and an act of rebellion which lands him in prison.
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» See also 165 mentions

English (54)  Dutch (9)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Coetzee works to his own standard. A trial of imagination through the border town surrounded by "barbarians", the story feels a little dated compared to his other work. ( )
  ephemeral_future | Aug 20, 2020 |
This had a much bigger impact on me than when I read it the first time in 2008. The world has changed so much since then. ( )
  francesanngray | Jul 27, 2020 |
"I should never have allowed the gates of the town to be opened to people who assert that there are higher considerations than those of decency."

Perhaps an epitaph for our world. If you like your Kafka with a large dose of morality in it, step this way. I wonder if there has ever been a period in human history in which this little work would not have its place however particularly apt it may seem right now.

This is the third Coetzee I've read now and all of them are economic in terms of paper spent, this one a mere 170 pages. And yet there is nothing in the prose to indicate a miserly attitude to words or to story line. Indeed, there is much wonderment in the book.
Nor could I always see why one part of my body, with its unreasonable cravings and false promises, should be heeded over any other as a channel of desire. Sometimes my sex seemed to me another being entirely, a stupid animal living parasitically upon me, swelling and dwindling according to autonomous appetites, anchored to my flesh with claws I could not detach. Why do I have to carry you about from woman to woman, I asked: simply because you were born without legs? Would it make any difference to you if you were rooted in a cat or dog instead of in me?

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/waiting-for-the-barbarian... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
"I should never have allowed the gates of the town to be opened to people who assert that there are higher considerations than those of decency."

Perhaps an epitaph for our world. If you like your Kafka with a large dose of morality in it, step this way. I wonder if there has ever been a period in human history in which this little work would not have its place however particularly apt it may seem right now.

This is the third Coetzee I've read now and all of them are economic in terms of paper spent, this one a mere 170 pages. And yet there is nothing in the prose to indicate a miserly attitude to words or to story line. Indeed, there is much wonderment in the book.
Nor could I always see why one part of my body, with its unreasonable cravings and false promises, should be heeded over any other as a channel of desire. Sometimes my sex seemed to me another being entirely, a stupid animal living parasitically upon me, swelling and dwindling according to autonomous appetites, anchored to my flesh with claws I could not detach. Why do I have to carry you about from woman to woman, I asked: simply because you were born without legs? Would it make any difference to you if you were rooted in a cat or dog instead of in me?

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/waiting-for-the-barbarian... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
"I should never have allowed the gates of the town to be opened to people who assert that there are higher considerations than those of decency."

Perhaps an epitaph for our world. If you like your Kafka with a large dose of morality in it, step this way. I wonder if there has ever been a period in human history in which this little work would not have its place however particularly apt it may seem right now.

This is the third Coetzee I've read now and all of them are economic in terms of paper spent, this one a mere 170 pages. And yet there is nothing in the prose to indicate a miserly attitude to words or to story line. Indeed, there is much wonderment in the book.
Nor could I always see why one part of my body, with its unreasonable cravings and false promises, should be heeded over any other as a channel of desire. Sometimes my sex seemed to me another being entirely, a stupid animal living parasitically upon me, swelling and dwindling according to autonomous appetites, anchored to my flesh with claws I could not detach. Why do I have to carry you about from woman to woman, I asked: simply because you were born without legs? Would it make any difference to you if you were rooted in a cat or dog instead of in me?

rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/waiting-for-the-barbarian... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coetzee, J. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baiocchi, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
BascoveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Nicolas and Gisela
First words
I have never seen anything like it: two little discs of glass suspended in front of his eyes in loops of wire. Is he blind?
Quotations
One evening, rubbing her scalp with oil, massaging her temples and forehead, I notice in the corner of one eye a greyish puckering as though a caterpillar lay there with its head under her eyelid, grazing.
[...]

It has been growing more and more clear to me that until the marks on this girl's body are deciphered and understood I cannot let go of her. Between thumb and forefinger I part her eyelids. The caterpillar comes to an end, decapitated, at the pink inner rim of the eyelid. There is no other mark. The eye is whole.

I look into the eye. Am I to believe that gazing back at me she sees nothing--my feet perhaps, parts of the room, a hazy circle of light, but at the centre, where I am, only a blur, a blank? (Penguin Ink 35-36)
When Warrant Officer Mandel and his man first brought me back here and lit the lamp and closed the door, I wondered how much pain a plump comfortable old man would be able to endure in the name of his eccentric notions of how the Empire should conduct itself. But my torturers were not interested in degrees of pain. They were interested only in demonstrating to me what it meant to live in a body, as a body, a body which can entertain notions of justice only as long as it is whole and well, which very soon forgets them when its head is gripped and a pipe is pushed down its gullet and pints of salt water are poured into it till it coughs and retches and flails and voids itself. They did not come to force the story out of me of what I had said to the barbarians and what the barbarians had said to me. So I had no chance to throw the high-sounding words I had ready in their faces. They came to my cell to show me the meaning of humanity, and in the space of an hour they showed me a great deal. (Penguin Ink 132-33)
"No, you misunderstand me. I am speaking only of a special situation now, I am speaking of a situation in which I am probing for the truth, in which I have to exert pressure to find it. First I get lies, you see — this is what happens — first lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truth. That is how you get the truth."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

For decades the Magistrate has run the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement, ignoring the impending war between the barbarians and the Empire. When the interrogation experts arrive he is jolted into sympathy with the victims and an act of rebellion which lands him in prison.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
My copy, "Withdrawn from Toronto Public Library" (which now has 42 copies of the 1999 edition and one copy of the 1982 edition with the emblem "Winner of the Nobel Prize" on a differently illustrated front cover, and this single copy in the Reference Library downtown) is a basic yellowing cheap paperback Penguin, no intro notes, and the last page is . . .the last page next to the cover. The cover design and illustration, pre-Nobel Prize -- are by 'Bascove', a New York artist of considerable reputation (see http://www.bascove.com/ ). So this copy is of worth to me for its cover illustration as well as the content.
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