Total Members Voted: 191
Quote from: redemption on January 06, 2006, 01:39:16 PM"The South African Experience" is a multifaceted thing - it is many things, not one. That's what I meant. I understand it/them well enough.Then, please, by all means, explain some.
"The South African Experience" is a multifaceted thing - it is many things, not one. That's what I meant. I understand it/them well enough.
Quote from: redemption on January 06, 2006, 01:26:57 PMCoetzee is affected: Disgrace is trite.Agreed. Disgrace may be superficially concerned with SA issues, but if you look at the narrative, it's from the wholly alienated perspective of an middle/upper-class white guy. It could be anywhere. The only SA influence I perceived where in various bare-bones descriptions. My impression was that he merely transplanted the traditional "orientalism" into an African context.
Coetzee is affected: Disgrace is trite.
Quote from: MaraudingJ on January 06, 2006, 02:05:25 PMQuote from: redemption on January 06, 2006, 01:39:16 PM"The South African Experience" is a multifaceted thing - it is many things, not one. That's what I meant. I understand it/them well enough.Then, please, by all means, explain some.Boer/Anglo/Ndebele/Xhosa/Zulu..... Urban/rural/suburban..... Cape experience not same as Transvaal exp.... Farmer/Banker/Professor Not everyone in RSA loves cricket; not every white South African in the 80s was a racist. Nothing exceptional about RSA: like many other countries (incl this one) it is not one society, but many - held together by a shred. There is, to put it plainly, no such thing as South Africa.One of the problems that I have with Coetzee, apart from his lack of a style that one can call his own ("Barbarians" excepted) is the narrow-mindedness of his view of what, for the sake of discussion, we call "South Africa", and of South Africans...the south asian prostitute, the white liberal professor, the mute/brute black... All of his characters are the silliest sort of stereotypes. And all of this contrasts starkly with the scale of his ambitions.Booker types, with an odd mix of patronizing condescension and undue respect for anyone who writes and is from the former empire, genuflect too quickly in his direction. His Lit Crit is good, his fiction is weak.
See irony. PS: Your first paragraph reads like a paraphrase from your Lit. Crit. or Comp. Lit. class, professor-provided, "context." Which I suspect it is. Nice job on the nouns. You see, I've lived both here and in South Africa. The fact of the matter is, things ARE exceptional in South Africa. It takes Coetzee's bitingly sarcastic prose to shake the middle-class white male (specifically, the educated English white male) from his life-long reverie. The "stereotypes" are such for a reason. In fact, if you read all blacks as brutal (with the exception of the rapists, which, by the way, is a major problem in South Africa), then you misread Coetzee completely. The point is exactly the opposite: that what appears to the culturally intolerant white person to be crass or brutal is, in fact, a way of being, an approach to life to which they must become accustomed in order to survive in a changing society. What Petrus does (that name in itself is ridiculously ironic) is not some trumped-up creation of Coetzee's: it's what's happening in South Africa right now. The finger isn't being pointed at black people, it's being pointed at white people. By creating such a weak protagonist, one who has literally fallen from "grace", Coetzee is basically saying, "WAKE UP, THIS IS YOU, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!" Coetzee doesn't fault Petrus for his actions; rather, he faults his own protagonist for his reactions. He ridicules the character's miscomprehension of the vagaries of the situation. That's just one example.But, please, I'm still waiting for a cogent analysis of the new South Africa, if you've got one.
And one more thing. What the @#!* is wrong with the "alienated middle-class white perspective" anyway? Are authors not allowed to write from this perspective anymore? This isn't really targeted at you specifically. I just hear this "criticism" way too often. If you've got an interesting view on this, please share.
I'm afraid the problem is not that his characterizations (and, dare I say it, his use of symbolism) are accidental. If it/they were, it would be easier to overlook the problems with the book. I agree that they are central. I agree that his stance is intended to be ironic. It just fails, that's all: at least for me.
If he were to fail in a spectacular way - as, for example, Salman Rushdie repeatedly has after Midnight's Children - then at least that would be entertaining in a horrifying "what a @#!* up" kind-of-way.
But, in the end, reading a book that has no stylistic merit about mundane issues (sorry, but the middle-aged white guy losing his place has been DONE!!),
about an imaginary "nation" that does not exist,
centered around people who (with the exception of the daughter) are not interesting
- well, that is a waste of time.
Once again, I appreciate that you like him and his work. Many people do. I'll be democratic and say that you are more likely to be right about this than I