The Childhood of Jesus

JM Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus is a cryptic tale set in Novilla, a city populated by people who have accepted the chance to live. Upon arrival residents are given new names and washed of their memories. Life is sustained on an appetite of asceticism; and hunger, like desires and impulse, is regarded as “a dog in…

As I Lay Dying

It is July 1913 in the Mississippi countryside. Addie Bundren, a mother of five, is on her deathbed. The eldest child, Cash, is bevelling up planks for the coffin, while his two brothers are on an errand, hurrying to make some much-needed money, then to get the mules-driven wagon home. Anse, their father, has given…

Pedro Paramo

I read Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo at a time in my life when strange dreams were invading my sleep and, perhaps for want of rest, long days were spent wrestling with old ghosts. This second (and last) book by the Mexican author opens with the tale of Juan Preciado who, in fulfilling a promise…

Abrasive Tenderness

It has been a while since I had wept over a book. But I just did. Actually, it was over a short story by Hemingway: My Old Man. It’s hard to know whether this is because of the author’s august style after my recent dry spell in reading classics, or because of the obvious subject. Anyhow. The tale is narrated entirely from…

The White Tiger

“Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many. A handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 per cent to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man’s hands and he will throw it…

The Humbling

The Humbling  was presented as the 30th novel by one of America’s most honoured living authors, Philip Roth. As such, one approaches it with certain preliminary expectations — only to be totally underwhelmed. That is not to say readers familiar with Roth’s bold, unflinching style and his sexually explicit language, or even those who are encountering the novelist for the first time…

Summertime: Scenes From Provincial Life

It is 2007, and John Coetzee is dead. An Englishman, Mr Vincent, is working on his posthumous biography, unauthorised. Having never met Coetzee himself, the biographer has made arrangements to speak with five people who knew his subject personally: some intimately, some professionally, or both. Summertime is the third volume in the trilogy of what has been promulgated as Coetzee’s…