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Diary of a Bad Year: Fiction Paperback – October 28, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Nobelist Coetzee's 19th book features a stand-in for himself: Señor C, a white 72-year-old South African writer living in Australia who has written Waiting for the Barbarians. C falls into a metaphysical passion for his sexy 29-year-old Filipina neighbor, Anya, and quickly plots to spend more time with her by offering her a job as his typist. C's latest project is a series of political and philosophical essays, and Coetzee divides each page of the present novel in three: any given page features a bit of an essay (often its title and opening paragraph) at the top; C's POV in the middle; and Anya's voice at the bottom. C's opinions in the essays are mostly on the left (he despises Bush, Blair & Co., and is opposed to the Iraq War) and they bore Anya, who wants something less lofty. Meanwhile, Anya's lover, Alan—a smart, conservative 42-year-old investment consultant who's good in the sack, and who stands for everything C despises—becomes increasingly scornful and jealous, and eventually concocts an elaborate plan to defraud C. of money. Unfortunately, Anya is little more than a trophy to be disputed, and Alan as an unscrupulous, boorish reactionary is a caricature. While C's essays, especially the later ones inspired by Anya, hold some interest, this follow-up to Slow Year is not one of Coetzee's major efforts. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
J. M. Coetzee, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003 and is one of only two writers to win the Booker Prize twice, is clearly not content to rest on his laurels. In fact, most critics consider Diary of a Bad Year to be his most ambitious work yet. While the plot itself isnt particularly innovative, the novels complex narrative structure masterfully weaves multiple voices and viewpoints into a beautifully textured literary counterpoint. There are plenty of layers here: Cs biography is, of course, a mirror image of Coetzees. As a writer nears the end of his career, what opinions has he formed? What does he want from othersa young woman in particularand what effect might she have on him? How malleable might his opinions be? Critics disagreed over whether reading each of the three narratives separately or reading a whole page at a time was the most rewarding method, but they generally concurred that, no matter how the novel is read, Diary of a Bad Year is a treat.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There are so many interesting ideas expressed here, that you cannot summarize the point of view. One that struck me was the comment on eating meat that it is important that not everyone lose the ability to recognize meat as flesh cut from a corpse. That is such a right way to put it I think. Coetzee has written about his vegetarian views in the past. Unsuccessfully, I thought, in "The Lives of Animals." But then he came back and gave that story such a perfect gloss in "Elizabeth Costello."
This is the best reflection on our times that I have read.
Diary of a Bad Year (Paperback)
by J.M. Coetzee
read in March, 2009
Rosemary said: "J. M. Coetzee's pseudo-novel,
"Diary of a Bad Year," is almost, but not really,
once you accept his 'concretismo' terms of writing,
irritating to read.
He sections off each page into three vantage
points of view by the three main characters.
The first section on the pages is the typed
manuscript of the author's, (thinly disguised
as Coetzee, himself), "Strong Opinions," comprising
all subjects from "01. -On the Origins of the State,"
through "24. -On Dostoevsky."
The second section on the pages is the voice of the
erotic, yet compassionate, downstairs neighbor, a
Filipina woman named Anya, whom the aging author
hires to type his manuscript.
The third section on each page concentrates on the
relationship Anya has with her live-in lover, Alan,
who gradually and predictably becomes jealously
obsessed with Anya's daily meetings with the famous,
old author upstairs. Alan tries unsuccessfully to
engage Anya in a plot to steal the old man's money.
Anya refuses to accomodate Alan's avaricious
greed and leaves him, once the manuscript is finished.
She winds up quite liberated after the experience of being
honored by the old author's attentions and his literary
works over the period of time she works for him.
Alan, by contrast, remains full of sour grapes, and can only
find fault with the author's work on every envious level
It took me awhile to enjoy the book. After all, I had just
read the epic masterpiece by Roberto Bolano, "2666," and
had to adjust my expectations to the different, more insular
and almost parable-like work of Coetzee in the "Diary of a
Bad Year." The three-tiered arrangement of the novel is
both clever and poignant, making clear the differences
among face-to-face communications, the exchanges behind one's
back, and the words that eventually wind up being published,
in German no less, without the back stories.