- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Viking (February 21, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0735222665
- ISBN-13: 978-0735222663
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Schooldays of Jesus Hardcover – February 21, 2017
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“[The Schooldays of Jesus is] a kind of fusion genre blending the energy of philosophical dialogue, the warmth and unprogrammed humor of father-son repartee, the emotional potency of a family romance and finally the uncanny suggestion of allegory (womb as ship, birth as disembarkation). The result is rich, dense, often amusing and, above all, full of inner tension and suspense.”—New York Times Book Review
“Freed from literary convention, Coetzee writes not to provide answers, but to ask great questions.” —The Economist
“The Schooldays of Jesus is a powerful novel that steamrolls through the reader’s mind with many striking ideas and beliefs. Propelled by the battle between two different philosophies, the philosophy of the higher realm of passion and fantasy and the philosophy of the orderly, measurable world of rationality, The Schooldays of Jesus explores a striking quest for meaning.”—New York Journal of Books
“Coetzee has an impeccable ear for the tender patter between a curious child and a conscientious father figure who never wants to lose his patience . . . There’s no denying the haunting quality of Coetzee’s measured prose, his ability to suspend ordinary events in a world just a few degrees away from our own." —The Washington Post
“Coetzee delivers a beautiful sequel in The Schooldays of Jesus . . . They are tender, supple works written by a man who engages with the world in a range of moods: from the serious political and ethical thrust of his South African novels to the artistically playful temper of his late style . . . pure poetry.”—Charleston Post and Courier
“Many scenes have the qualities of miniature Socratic dialogues. Their pleasures are pure, as Coetzee has cleared away modern prejudices and stripped his characters’ philosophical conversations to a skeletal core . . . there’s a stark beauty to these novels of ideas and the haunting images that infuse them: a young boy pondering a bird with a broken wing, a beautiful woman turned blue by death, an old man trying to dance.” —New York Magazine
“As compelling, and confounding, as its predecessor.” —Booklist (starred)
Praise for J.M. Coetzee and The Childhood of Jesus
“[The Childhood of Jesus] plunges us at once into a mysterious and dreamlike terrain. . . . A Kafka-inspired parable of the quest for meaning itself.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review (front page)
“A return to form . . . [Coetzee’s] most brisk and dazzling book.” —Benjamin Lytal, The Daily Beast
“Compelling—eerie, tautly written.” —Los Angeles Times
“[Coetzee] is a consummate withholder, one of the great masters of the unsaid and the inexplicit.” —The New York Review of Books
“Gripping from the very first page.” —Bookforum
“[Coetzee’s] great talent has always been to make the reader . . . feel as though he is writing for her alone, challenging her to ask herself the same questions he puts to his characters. . . . The Childhood of Jesus . . . explores the enduring question of what a just and compassionate world might look like.” —The Nation
“[Coetzee] uses his icy, pitch-perfect prose to create a mysterious, Kafkaesque world. . . . . Utterly enigmatic.” —Mother Jones (Best Books of 2013)
“[The Childhood of Jesus] is the story of a boy named Davíd. . . . His character is both uniquely and universally profound. In one moment, he is like no child to have ever existed. In the next moment, he captures perfectly the essence of all children, everywhere.” —The Atlantic (Best Books Read This Year)
“The Childhood of Jesus—this cryptic, mythic, haunting fable—ranks among J. M. Coetzee’s best.” —Chicago Tribune
“Captivating and provocative . . . Coetzee’s precise prose is at once rich and austere, lean and textured, deceptively straightforward and yet expansive, as he considers what is required, not just of the body, but by the heart.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
J. M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 and is the author of twenty-two books, which have been translated into many languages. He was the first author to twice win the Booker Prize. A native of South Africa, he now lives in Adelaide, Australia.
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Top customer reviews
"Childhood" was clearly not just a realistic book, but also a very allegorical one: Davíd alias Jesus as a child represents his father's hope for a richer and deeper life in contrast to their real life at Novilla where they had arrived as refugees. There they found work and support, but life was drab and dreary at the same time, without spiritual meaning, emotions, beauty or passion. They left it because little Davíd would not fit into the uniform school system.
At Estrella they find a living as farm workers. Davíd, meanwhile 6 years old, is given the chance to visit a school that seems to fit his highly individualistic personality much better: the Academy of Dance. Here the children do not just learn to do sums in the traditional way but they learn to "dance the numbers". The founders of the school, Juan Sebastián Arroyo and his beautiful second wife Ana Magdalena, base their educational philosophy on the assumption that scientific thought and aesthetic expression mystically correspond with the universe that seems to follow a similar metrical order. Gifted children like little Davíd are much closer to this origin, so the method of experiencing numbers, order, and rhythm by dancing will be natural to them. And, indeed, David likes it, he prospers well in this school, he is the most gifted little dancer.
The problem is that his foster parents, Simón and Inés, can no longer understand this. David estranges himself from them and they are unwilling to let him stay in the school. All the more so, since Ana Magdalena is murdered by the caretaker of the school, a certain Dmitri. This character is a striking contrast to Simón – he dedicated his life to passionate, blind love for Ana Magdalena, which ends paradoxically in her murder.
I would understand it if many well-meaning readers have already given up reading here. To put it differently: this book is even more allegorical than the first one. "Arroyo", the surname of Ana Magdalena and her husband, means "Bach" in German, so clearly Coetzee takes Johann Sebastian Bach's music to put his story in a large historical, philosophical and aesthetic context. "Dmitri" seems to be a reference to Dostoyevski's "Brothers Karamazov", it is the name of the passionate, emotional brother. This is even more likely as there is an "Alyosha" – the name of the second Karamazov brothers - at the Academy of Dance. It is known that Coetzee is a great admirer of Dostoyevski's, having written a book about a period in Dostoyevski's life ("The Master of St. Petersburg").
The rational type of the three Karamazov brothers would be represented by Simón – the alter ego of Coetzee himself, and he and Dmitri argue a lot in a Dostoyevski-like manner. So this book also becomes a typical self-inspection of the author who wants to find out if modern, rational man – like he himself – must be open to more emotionalism and even mysticism.
The book can hardly be understood as a realistic story in itself. But seen in Coetzee's larger universe it is a literary challenge.