J. M. Coetzee is regarded as a writer of ideas. His literary work bears a distinctly philosophical imprint that is often woven around allegory, yet his stark, analytical view of racial conflict in South Africa, his country of origin, has not stood in the way of a broader horizon and an interest in other universally ethical and pressing causes, for instance the suffering and exploitation of animals, conceived as fragile and dispossessed beings, an issue which takes prominence in his intervention in the Museo.
The writing of the author of Disgrace blurs the lines that separate fiction from autobiographical subject matter in such a way that it speaks in “third person” memories, a fully fictionalised exercise of confession, referred to by the writer on numerous occasions in terms of “alter biography”. This endeavour to expand the genre of the novel, enabling the tools of fiction to serve lyricism, diary entries or essays, does, in fact, commonly run across the breadth of his literary output, manifesting his ability to lay down a new paradigm which goes beyond naturalism as the dominant canon in literary fiction. This break from tradition is punctuated in Coetzee’s affirmation that “the word-mirror is broken, irreparably”, a sentence from the novel Elizabeth Costello. The character that lends the novel its name is an ageing writer who travels around the world giving lectures on animal rights, one of which, “The Lives of Animals”, represents a landmark in animal literature.
This lecture, one of the few public interventions by the author, reflects the Museo’s interest in the artist’s autobiographical narrations, in reflective and analytical writing in processes of creation, and in the ethical and intellectual commitment to memory and history considered in the present. The lecture will be followed by a debate and a question-and-answer session between the audience and the writer, and will be moderated by José Carlos Miralles.
J. M. Coetzee
(Cape Town, South Africa, 1940) is the author of numerous essay collections and twelve novels, which include Waiting for the Barbarians
(1980), Life and Times of Michael K
(1983), The Master of Petersburg
(1999, adapted for cinema in 2008 by the director Steve Jacobs) and Elizabeth Costello
(2003). In 2012, under the title Here and Now
, his three-year correspondence with Paul Auster was also released. 2013 saw the publication of his last and most recent novel, The Childhood of Jesus
, an account that explores family ties in an analytical and distant style. The Life and Times of Michael K
both received the Booker Prize, the most prestigious award in English literature, with Coetzee becoming the only author to be awarded the prize on two occasions. Furthermore, he has lectured at the State University of New York at Buffalo and at the John Hopkins University, Baltimore, and, until his retirement in 2002, he was a Professor of English Literature at the University of Cape Town. He currently lives in Australia, where he carries out research in the English Department of the University of Adelaide.
José Carlos Miralles is a Professor of Latin Studies at the University of Murcia. He works as a researcher of Latin and Neo-Latin literature and lectures on the Renaissance. Since 2007 he has maintained an epistolary relationship with J. M. Coetzee.