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Youth Paperback – Import, 2002

26 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Secker & Warburg; First Edition (ARC) edition (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436275937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436275937
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,016,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Claus Hetting on July 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Twenty taut chapters of lucid prose is what Nobel Laureate Coetzee conjures up in this superb little novel. It is - presumably - a largely autobiographical work about a young South African (himself) leaving his native Cape Town for the UK in the hope that a life in London may finally wrest from him his ultimate destiny: to become a poet. The book brilliantly exposes the mind of this sensitive and somewhat listless youth, who searches for identity and meaning through a rare mix of poetry, computing, and a host of miscarried love affairs.

Coetzee is a master of erudite objectivity, suspending outside judgement in a stream of succinct observations. His narrative runs its course with hardly an extraneous word, and, although the themes are often somber, he maintains an undercurrent of optimism. The result is both satisfying and memorable.

This book is highly recommended. Read it and enjoy.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven Reynolds on November 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Coetzee's fictionalized memoir is a painfully honest account of a would-be writer trying to forge himself through two misguided yet common strategies of youth: heading to one of the world's "great cities" (London) because only in these places does "destiny happen"; and kidding himself that both he and his work will be somehow redeemed by love. That he promptly falls into an abyss of middle-class working life and a series of loveless relationships is unsurprising. Coetzee's detached third-person style (an admirable achievement in such a personal work) and his preference for narrating rather than dramatizing most situations here add to the lugubrious mood, though this never becomes a self-indulgent or melancholy work. Indeed, it is saved from that by two things. First, Coetzee's inspiring articulation, in the final pages, of the real reason behind artistic failure in the young: a paralyzing lack of self-confidence which kills art and any chance of a loving relationship. It's the unwillingness to fail and therefore the unwillingness to try which usually thwart us. Secondly, Coetzee's reflections on what I presume to be his own reading history are wonderful. His interleaved commentaries on Henry James, Ezra Pound and Ford Madox Ford are keen and insightful. This is a book that young would-be writers will find alternately depressing and inspiring - and perhaps the not-so-young ones, too. Exhausted, over-educated dwellers in the white-collar wasteland will find much to inspire and console them here. After all, Coetzee was an I.T. professional who didn't publish until well into his 30s and went on to win the Nobel this year at 63. He's certainly made up for lost time.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on July 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Rarely have I encountered so much insight and knowledge in such a short 169 pages. "Youth" is the second novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee. The first, "Waiting for the Barbarians" was a novel about societies whereas "Youth" is a novel about an individual. I get the strong suspicion that this is an autobiographical novel although I know little, if anything, about the author's life. However, his subject character's thoughts, actions, and observations are so real and humanly imperfect that I have to feel the book emerges from the authors own memory. If I'm right, it's all the more reason to praise the talent of Coetzee because he is willing to share the good and the bad about himself. Even if it isn't autobiographical, it is a masterful disection of the inner soul of an emerging adult writer.

"Youth" tells the story of a young man of university age who sensed that his future as a writer in his native South Africa is hopeless. He also realizes that his entire life there is hopeless. We see the clumsiness of his relationships with others; especially women. Most of this is his own fault as he sees everything in the context of whether it will help the development of his artistic talent. Love has no serious role to play in this life (at least at this point in his life). He emigrates to London (his other options for artistic development were Paris and Vienna). Unfortunately he has to get a job and his mathmatical background enables him to find a reasonably good one. However, everything continues to be measured in its' ability to enhance or detract from his development as a poet. The book ends with the anticipated dispair that such a detached life would bring.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on July 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
Sometimes there is an advantage in reading books by the same author in reverse order. This has been the case here for me. Having read and greatly enjoyed his most recent Summertime: Fiction, in which Coetzee creates an intriguing portrait of one John Coetzee, deceased, a kind of alter ego, and whose personality emerges through interviews and recollections by several friends and acquaintances. In his 2002 portrait "Youth" he distances himself from the younger John by writing what he terms an "autre-biography"*). Written in the present tense and in the third person, the story has a lively and immediate reality while at the same time suggesting a clear distance between the author and his subject. With the hindsight of SUMMERTIME, this reader for one, wondered how much Coetzee has creatively changed or adapted the realities of John's growing up story to suit his idea of who he might have been.

Coetzee concentrates on a decisive period in John's life - from his mid-teens to his early twenties. In this coming of age portrait of John, we see an awkward youth, whose mind hovers between ambitious dreams and self-doubt. He is a young South African, determined to escape the confines of family and the restrictions in his country. Coetzee presents us with a fascinating and often entertaining quasi-memoir, set against the backdrop of a tumultuous period in history: The frequent unrests and subsequent violent suppression of protests by South African blacks (e.g. Sharpville), the Cuban missile crisis, the declaration of South Africa as a republic, etc.

John, while a reasonably successful mathematics student, sees his real calling in being a poet.
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