Synopses & Reviews
Set in an isolated outpost on the edge of a great Empire, WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS is a startling allegory of the war between oppressor and oppressed. The Magistrate, the novel's fascinating narrator, has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of the frontier settlement, dabbling in antiquarianism, and ignoring constant reports of a threat from the "barbarians" who inhabit the uncharted deserts beyond the village. But when military personnel arrive with captured barbarians, he becomes witness to a cruel and unjust defense of the Empire. Outraged and, with military command controlling his village, powerless to prevent the persecution of the barbarians, he finds himself involved in an affair with one of the victims, a girl crippled, blinded, and orphaned by the torturers. Their relationship, intimate but devoid of true understanding, finally pushes him to a quixotic act of rebellion that brands him an enemy of the state. Rendered in an austere but richly suggestive prose, Coetzee's novel addresses universal political and philosophical issues of power and justice.
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.