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The Coup Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 12, 1978

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Editorial Reviews


“One of Updike’s boldest and most imaginative performances.”—Newsweek
“Ellelloû is an extraordinary tour-de-force of a character. . . . What a rich, surprising, and often funny novel The Coup is.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A very funny book as well as a serious one. It’s the work of an intelligent and funny and passionate man—and it’s good.”—The Washington Post Book World

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8 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (November 12, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039450268X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394502687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
If you have ever lived or worked in Sahelian Africa (or in the developing world in general) read this book! At first I had my doubts that a man who is best known for portraying suburban America could write about Africa. But the same keen eye for social nuance, and biting humor come to bear on a fictional Sahelian country and its leader who is playing the Cold War superpowers against one another for fun and profit. I think what impressed me the most, was Updike's ability to get inside the head of an African leader who has one foot in Western academia and the other in his pre-Saharan village. And, of course, Updike writes beautifully on just about any topic. I have read a lot of books about Africa, from the literary to mundane travelogues, but this book ranks among my favorites both for its humour and the underlying insight to what's gone wrong in Western relations with Africa.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Harrington on May 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Updike has created a strangely loveable tyrant in Ellelou. An impotent, Islamic fundamentalist zealot, Ellelou is the president of a mythical African socialist republic, Kush, and he narrates this great bad dream of a book. His voice is expertly used to comically tease out and eventually lay bare the self serving hypocrisy at the heart of Soviet and US power politics as the cold war nears its end in the late 60s/early 70s. A supporting cast is wonderfully sketched. The bureaucratic toad with the silk Parisian shirts and penchant for all things western, Ezana, is very funny. The delightfully spirited yet doomed liberal Amercan wife of Ellelou, Candy, (whom he seduced and transplanted to Kush having met at university in America) recalls the noble yet faintly ridiculous "human shield" volunteers who set off to deflect the American bombs in the recent Iraq war only to fall out along the way in a cloud of petty squabbles. Ellelou's many other wives are a joy to behold and often quite saucy. The American diplomat Klipspringer is wonderfully vacant, simple of mind and outlook, eternally buoyant and optimistic, no doubt he went on to great things under Reagan!
This is all great fun and no one escapes the author�s scalpel that dissects, via jibes and faux-dogmatism, the vacancy at the heart of everything. All are treated equally here: middle class America, drunken (stereotypical unfortunately) Russian missile crews, the USA's private racial embarrassment, the world�s great religions, clownish black Muslim students, superpower policy in the poorest countries, arrogant white liberal professors (who understand Africa better than Africans...!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ignatious Valve on February 9, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before picking this book up, I had no preconceived notions. I have never read Updike, and I have never heard of the book. After the first chapter, I was ready for a serious look at innocent African poverty and the evil Western world. But I soon found out that this book was more of a comedy than anything else. About a fictitious nation (which I believe represents Ethiopia), this book is told from the point of view of this nation's president. The book was written in 1978 and mocks both Islam and Marxism. I don't believe a book like this would survive today's form of censorship called political correctness, but I found it refreshingly funny. Literature and art of today is fond of mocking Christianity and Democracy (which is fine, it is their right) but rarely can anything outside of those two things be poked fun at, this book helped point that fact out.

John Updike is obviously a great writer. It took me several dozen pages to get used to his writing style (heavy on satire and very witty), but I learned to really enjoy it. As an American living in a third world country- I could relate to several of the scenarios in the book. But instead of driving home any kind of moral lessons or preaching political preferences, Updike just makes a funny story out of these situations. Too often fiction has underlying agendas which overwhelm and overshadow the story. At times this is good, but usually it is annoying. Updike does nothing of the sort in this book, there is just good fiction and good laughs. I look forward to reading some of Updike's other stuff, as he is a very talented and enjoyable writer.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on June 13, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Coup" is strange subject matter for John Updike -- a novel about, and narrated by, the president of a fictional Marxist Islamic central African nation called Kush, formerly a French protectorate, now (as of the 1970s) allied with the Soviets. Although the narrator, Colonel Hakim Felix Ellellou, holds the office of president of Kush's governing council, he is effectively a dictator; but unlike Stalin or Saddam Hussein, he does not have his face enshrined in every public place, and prefers to be known only by name so he can travel around his country incognito when he wants to inspect various operations. Presently he is presiding over a national crisis: Kush is suffering from a long drought, his people are starving, and there is little he can do about it.
Ellellou unsurprisingly resents America, the world's greatest exponent of capitalism and tacky culture, "that fountainhead of obscenity and glut," as he calls it. "Offer your own blacks freedom before you pile boxes of carcinogenic trash on the holy soil of Kush," he haughtily tells an American aid worker just before his legions make a bonfire out of a large supply of donated food which engulfs the unfortunate man who brought it. His attitude stems from the time he spent there in the 1950s as a student at a small college in Wisconsin, where he met several other black students including a member of the Nation of Islam who helped to fuel his hatred towards whites. This was also where he met a WASPish white girl named Candy Cunningham, who, spiting her family, became one of his wives when he moved back to Kush. (Observing the polygamy allowed to him by Islam, Ellellou has three other wives he keeps in separate homes, and a mistress named Kutundu who figures significantly in his imminent downfall.
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