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In the Heart of the Country: A Novel Paperback – October 28, 1982


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The strong-minded Bathsheba Everdene—and the devoted shepherd, obsessed farmer and dashing soldier who vie for her favor—move through a beautifully realized late 19th-century countryside, still almost untouched by the encroachment of modern life. Fox Searchlight Pictures will release a movie version of Far from the Madding Crowd May 1st. Learn more
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 28, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140062289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140062281
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A realistic fable, at once stark, exciting, and economical." —The New York Times Book Review

 

From the Inside Flap

Stifled by the torpor of colonial South Africa, and trapped in a web of reciprocal oppression, a lonely sheep farmer seeks comfort in the arms of a black concubine. But when his embittered spinster daughter Magda feels shamed, this lurch across the racial divide marks the end of a tenuous feudal peace. As she dreams madly of bloody revenge, Magda's consciousnes sstarts to drift and the line between fact and the workings of her excited imagination becomes blurred. What follows is the fable of a woman's passionate, obsessed and violent response to an Africa that will not heed her. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

The main character, Magda, is a very captivating storyteller.
Rosie
In Coetzee's small novel "In the Heart of the Country" from 1976 we witness a harsh story about loneliness and lack of even the most basic signs of love.
Jan Faerk
The novel is set at an unspecified time, the present tense heightens this sense of timelessness.
Hicham

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on January 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
I just finished the seventh book I've read by the Nobel-prize-winning J.M. Coetzee, In the Heart of the Country, which was published in 1977 and is his second novel (Dusklands was the first).

The 138-page book is presented as numbered entries (in a journal?) written by the main character, whose name we learn only once more than half the book has gone by. It is Magda. She is the intelligent, bitter, unattractive, spinster daughter of a sheep farmer in an isolated, nearly barren region of South Africa. A lead man on the farm, a black man named Hendrik, has gone home and brought back a wife, Anna, whom Magda's father takes as his mistress. Magda seems to snap and fantasizes violent reprisals against one or both of them, until the reader begins to wonder if some or any of it is real.

We only have Magda's apparently corrupted point of view to go by. There is no other point of reference in the work. Coeztee, who was educated as a computer scientist and a linguist, presents and represents incidents in the journal in different ways, disorienting the reader, but perhaps orienting one more to the world of perception that Magda inhabits. Coetzee will take a common point in time, and have Magda represent it a couple of different ways, with different outcomes, one of which may become part of her mythology/reality. For example, she seems to say she's an only child, but she might have had a brother and other siblings. By the end of the book, the other siblings are reality for her.

And by the end of the book, Magda has completely cracked up, if you ask me. One line I read about this book is that it is a feminine narrative a la Beckett. Coetzee, who seems to be influenced by Kafka, does present an existential image of life as a colonial presence in South Africa.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By HORAK on February 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Magda is a lonely and embittered spinster who lives on a sheep farm in the heart of South Africa. Her mother died in childbirth, the cause of which Magda attributes to her father's "relentless sexual demands". Her bitterness comes from the fact that she feels that she has been an absence all her life to her father. They have always fronted each other in silence and so Magda became an unhappy peasant, "a miserable black virgin, "the mad hag" she is destined to be, having grown up with the servants' children.

Deprived of human intercourse, Magda realises that she overvalues the imagination. That is why when her father brings home a new bride, she fantacises of killing them both with an axe. The lonely farm is the place where she is "devoured by boredom", engulfed in the "monologue of the self" like a maze of words out of which she can't escape and she feels doomed to expire there "in the heart of the country", "in the middle of nowhere", a place she considers "was never intended that people should live here". Magda's father's sexual relationship with Hendrik's wife, the black servant, only adds to her dismay. It thus doesn't come as a surprise, given Magda's psychological disposition, that she often dreams of burning everything down and that she is actually about to murder the one person she considers responsible for her despair. After that, what is left for her but an inexorable descent into madness?

As André Brink stated about this novel: "It says something about loneliness, about craving for love, about the relation between master and slave and between white and black, and about a man's earthly anguish and longing for salvation - in a way you do not easily escape from once it has gripped you".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jan Faerk on January 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
In Coetzee's small novel "In the Heart of the Country" from 1976 we witness a harsh story about loneliness and lack of even the most basic signs of love. A white woman (Magda) living alone with her father in an isolated sheepfarm in South Africa. The mother has most likely passed away during childbirth. There is almost no communication at all between father and daughter, just unspoken expectations. The fathers later intimate relationship with a black maid just leads to even more brutalization of the relationship between father and daughter. The brutalization and the human obtuseness as a consequence of the authoritative regime on the small farm displays the fundamental problems of the then South Africa (and similarly authoritative regimes). The invisible power infiltrates whereever there is no respect or equality and the power is visualized in a very destructive and depressing manner in the diminutive South African cosmos. The title is perhaps a reference to Conrads "The heart of darkness" and both have the evil as a theme.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric Maroney on August 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
In the Heart of the Country can be considered Afrikaans Gothic. This is Coetzee's Titus Andonicus, full of blood, fear and violence. Coetzee goes all out to present a grim and mannerist vision of life in the South African heartland. The novel is narrated through the voice of a single unmarried woman, and her interactions with her domineering father, her house servants, all of them colored (i.e. of mixed African and White ancestry). Coetzee does not pull any stops. It is all here: miscegenation, madness, rape, murder, colonial excesses, abuse of corpses, to name but a few.

While not as subtle as Coetzee's later works, In the Heart of the Country is an excellent primer for what he would do later with a lighter but no less effective touch.
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More About the Author

J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Foe, and Slow Man, among others. He has been awarded many prizes, including the Booker Prize (twice). In 2003, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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