1983 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
Set in a South Africa ravaged by civil war and oppressive military rule, Coetzee's extraordinary novel zeros in on one man: Michael K, a mildly disfigured "simpleton" who sets out on a mission to escape Cape Town and bring his ailing mother to the countryside of her childhood. But the journey, beset at every turn by roving soldiers and the threat of imprisonment, turns into a test of endurance and a dogged quest for freedom. Amid the rubble of this devastated, claustrophobic landscape, Michael manages to find brief moments of clarity, made all the more lucid by Coetzee's spare yet vibrant prose. Life and Times of Michael K is a masterpiece of perspective and a book that will leave you thankful — for what you have, and to have read it. Recommended By Renee P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A major work of crystalline intensity." Los Angeles Times
"So purifying to the senses that one comes away feeling that one’s eye has been sharpened, one’s hearing vivified." The New York Times Book Review
"An outstanding achievment." Nadine Gordimer
About the Author
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, John Maxwell 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.