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Age of Iron Paperback – 26 Aug 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (26 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241951011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241951019
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,689 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, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

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Review

It is, quite simply, a magnificent and unforgettable work (Daily Telegraph)

A superbly realised novel whose truth cuts to the bone (The New York Times)

A fierce pageant of modern South Africa ... A remarkable work by a brilliant writer (Wall Street Journal)

Coetzee is one of the greatest writers of our time ... Age of Iron is taut, ironic, grieving and, finally, astonishing (Los Angeles Times)

About the Author

J. M. Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1940. The author of some fifteen novels and winner of numerous awards, Coetzee is the first author to have been awarded the Booker Prize twice: for Life & Times of Michael K in 1983 and for Disgrace in 1999. In 2003 he was awared the Nobel Prize in Literature. He lives in Australia.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
This novel considers the deterioration of the physical body of the female protagonist as she dies of cancer alongside the demise of the body politic in South Africa in the 1984-86 State of Emergency. Elizabeth Curran returns home after receiving the news of her cancer to find that a vagrant has moved into her garden. The shock of her recent news and the terrible violence that is being enacted all around her in the townships causes her to form a bond with this man. She is unable to tell her daughter of her illness and this novel becomes a letter to the daughter in America which she will receive only when her mother is dead. It becomes clear during the novel that Elizabeth can talk to this vagrant about the things that concern her, and she openly discusses her inability to understand the violence and the bloodshed that she witnesses. Throughout the novel the reader is made aware of the tenuous position of a white liberal woman in South Africa and the question of the right to speak is perpetually one that bothers both the reader and Elizabeth. Ultimately this book reveals the difficulties of being a part of a system that you disagree with and the almost impossible task of trying to speak out against it with language and not violence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jorgensen on 30 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An retired middle-class woman learns that she is dying from incurable and painful cancer. The same day a vagabond sleeps in her garden. The time is the final years of apartheid in South Africa. While the country and the manners of people are fallling apart, the human tragedies of blacks spill over into her house and the bumb becomes her unlikely companion. The novel is written as a letter to her long lost daughter who escaped the South African situation by moving to the US.

The story is deep, calm and questioning. The reader apparently learns something about what it is like to be in the shoes of this old lady. Her thoughts about death and living are not the same as those of Micheal K. or the Magistrate (Waiting for the Barbarians), but the whole style, open ended at times, belongs to this woman. J. M. Coetze simply seems to have a remarkable talent for empathy. With novels like this one he truly fulfils one of the main objectives of a novel: learning what it is to be another person, and here during times of critical contemplations.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By HORAK on 12 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
In this novel first published in 1990, Mr Coetzee gives the grim account of both a human being facing imminent death and a country - South Africa - still immersed in the tragedy of the apartheid regime. Mrs Curren, a professor of classics in Cape Town, has just received the fatal news from her doctor, Dr Syfert, that she suffers from an incurable form of cancer. Part of the narrative consists in an imaginary letter Mrs Curren will never write to her daughter who left for America in 1976. Indeed she does not consider it to be just to share her burden with her daughter but, as she puts it, "to resist the craving to share my death", "to take my leave without bitterness" and "to embrace death as my own, mine alone." But since it is nearly impossible for her to approach death without the support of another human being, she ends up sharing her thoughts and life with Mr Vercueil, a tramp she finds one morning sleeping in the garden of her house.
Death is omnipresent in Mr Coetzee's work, not only Mrs Curren's but in the townships of Cape Town where the lives of the coloureds are worth next to nothing and therefore death is as common as life for the people obliged to live there. A powerful, sad and unforgettable tale whose characters and events cut to the bone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper on 23 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
In a letter to her daughter in America, Mrs. Curren, the 70-ish narrator of the terrific AGE OF IRON, makes a gruesome disclosure: her Cape Town physician has just told her she has an incurable cancer and her time is short. Her letter, which is the AGE OF IRON, then declares: "The first task laid on me, from today: to resist the craving to share my death. Loving you, loving life, to forgive the living and take my leave without bitterness. To embrace death as my own, mine alone."

While this task may feel right to Mrs. Curren, its fulfillment is undermined by her cancer, which gradually asserts control. "The end comes galloping," she observes. "I had not reckoned that as one goes downhill one goes faster and faster." The fulfillment of this task is also foiled by the apartheid system of South Africa, which Coetzee presents as a form of political and societal cancer. Finally, her own nature makes such a calm and self-contained end impossible. "To be full enough to give and to give from one's fullness: what deeper urge is there? Out of their withered bodies even the old try to squeeze one last drop."

These elements--cancer, apartheid, and Mrs. Curren's giving and communicative nature--combine to create a tense and brutal story, in which Mrs. Curren, who is isolated on principle, develops a strange yet appropriate accommodation to her impending death. In doing so, she confronts her cancer and the cancer of her country, while finding comfort in the company of an alcoholic vagrant, who embodies both malfunctioning South Africa and the shortcomings of willed obliviousness. Sounds weird... but it works.

As with most elements of this layered novel, the expression "age of iron" has multiple meanings.
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