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The Childhood of Jesusby J. M. Coetzee
Synopses & Reviews
A major new novel from the Nobel Prizewinning author of Waiting for the Barbarians, The Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace
Nobel laureate and two-time Booker Prize winner J. M. Coetzee returns with a haunting and surprising novel about childhood and destiny that is sure to rank with his classic novels.
Separated from his mother as a passenger on a boat bound for a new land, David is a boy who is quite literally adrift. The piece of paper explaining his situation is lost, but a fellow passenger, Simón, vows to look after the boy. When the boat docks, David and Simón are issued new names, new birthdays, and virtually a whole new life.
Strangers in a strange land, knowing nothing of their surroundings, nor the language or customs, they are determined to find David's mother. Though the boy has no memory of her, Simón is certain he will recognize her at first sight. But after we find her,” David asks, what are we here for?”
An eerie allegorical tale told largely through dialogue, The Childhood of Jesus is a literary feat — a novel of ideas that is also a tender, compelling narrative. Coetzee's many fans will celebrate his return while new readers will find The Childhood of Jesus an intriguing introduction to the work of a true master.
"In this captivating and provocative new novel, a small boy who has been renamed David, and Simon, the man who has become David's caretaker since David was separated from his mother, have immigrated to a nameless country. Simon soon finds work on the docks, is given an apartment for new arrivals, and sets about the impossible task of finding David's mother, whose name they do not know and whose face the boy does not remember. One day, Simon glimpses a woman inside a wealthy household — a woman who very likely isn't David's mother — and becomes instantly, illogically convinced that she should raise the child. He approaches her intent on convincing her to be 'a mother' to David; what unfolds is their story: mistakes made in the name of love and choices no one would wish to encounter. Most fascinating is the timeless, almost placeless country itself, which provides the immigrants with essentials — food, shelter, education, and modest employment — but denies them what Simon discovers matters most: irony, sensuality, intensity, and opinion. At times, the questions driving the allegory become almost too explicit, as when Simon asks a woman with whom he has just done the disappointing 'business of sex' if 'the price we pay for this new life, the price of forgetting, may be too high?' As in the past, Coetzee's (Disgrace) precise prose is at once rich and austere, lean and textured, deceptively straightforward and yet expansive, as he considers what is required, not just of the body, but by the heart. Agent: Rema Dilanyan, Peter Lampack Agency. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A return to form….[Coetzee's] most brisk and dazzling book.” Benjamin Lytal, The Daily Beast
“With this powerful and puzzling novel, Nobel laureate Coetzee…returns to the allegorical focus that defined Waiting for the Barbarians.” Booklist (starred)
“At once lucid and elusive….The prose is clear and flat in the special way that Coetzee has perfected.” David Sexton, London Evening Standard (UK)
“Beautifully put together.” The Spectator (UK)
“The inspiring gospel according to J. M. Coetzee.” The Herald (UK)
"[The Childhood of Jesus] plunges us at once into a mysterious and dreamlike terrain....A Kafka-inspired parable of the quest for meaning itself." Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, John Michael Coetzee studied first at Cape Town and later at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in literature. In 1972 he returned to South Africa and joined the faculty of the University of Cape Town. His works of fiction include Dusklands, Waiting for the Barbarians, which won South Africa’s highest literary honor, the Central News Agency Literary Award, and the Life and Times of Michael K., for which Coetzee was awarded his first Booker Prize in 1983. He has also published a memoir, Boyhood: Scenes From a Provincial Life, and several essays collections. He has won many other literary prizes including the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. In 1999 he again won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for Disgrace, becoming the first author to win the award twice in its 31-year history. In 2003, Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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