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Elizabeth Costello Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Bolinda audio (1 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1740947746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1740947749
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,877,283 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.

Product Description

Amazon Review

For Australian writer JM Coetzee, winner of two Booker Prizes and the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature, the world of receiving literary awards and giving speeches must be such a commonplace that he has put the circuit at the centre of his book, Elizabeth Costello. As the work opens, the eponymous Elizabeth, a fictional novelist, is in Williamstown, Pennsylvania, to receive the Stowe Award. For her speech at the Williamstown's Altona College she chooses the tired topic, "What Is Realism?" and quickly loses her audience in her unfocused discussion of Kafka. From there, readers follow her to a cruise ship where she is virtually imprisoned as a celebrity lecturer to the ship's guests. Next, she is off to Appleton College where she delivers the annual Gates Lecture. Later, she will even attend a graduation speech.

Coetzee has made this project difficult for himself. Occasional writing--writing that includes graduation speeches, acceptance speeches, or even academic lectures--is a less than auspicious form around which to build a long work of fiction. A powerful central character engaged in a challenging stage of life might sustain such a work. Yet, at the start, Coetzee declares that Elizabeth is "old and tired", and her best book, The House on Eccles Street is long in her past. Elizabeth Costello lacks a progressive plot and offers little development over the course of each new performance at the lectern. Readers are given Elizabeth fully formed with only brief glimpses of her past sexual dalliances and literary efforts.

In the end, Elizabeth Costello seems undecided about its own direction. When Elizabeth is brought to a final reckoning at the gates of the afterlife, she begins to suspect that she is actually in hell, "or at least purgatory: a purgatory of clichés". Perhaps Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, which can be read as an extended critique of clichéd writing, is a portrait of this purgatory. While some readers may find Coetzee's philosophical prose sustenance enough on the journey, some will turn back at the gate. --Patrick O'Kelley, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"One of Coetzee's best...simply burns with creative passion" (D. J. Taylor Independent)

"An important book... Extraordinary" (Independent on Sunday)

"Probably the best book on the [Booker] longlist, the one that will last... Every word counts. Every sentence lives" (Evening Standard)

"The best novel I've read this year, a book so bold and so clever that one wants to call it something other than a novel, to take it out of that commonplace genre" (Frank Kermode Times Literary Supplement)

"A readable and engaging book. Demanding, playful, provocative...hugely enlightening and rewarding" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Costello is an aging novelist, resident (like Coetzee) in Australia, celebrated primarily for work now long in the past, and tied hand and foot to the celebrity circuit of lectures and honorary awards. The chapters of the books are episodes from her life as she moves towards death, shedding certain abiding concerns and finding that others emerge with disconcerting insistence to take centre stage against her will. It is this preoccupation with death, and the meaning that it gives to life, that is one strand that ties the book together. The other, which emerges more slowly, is Costello's crisis of confidence in the powers of reason and finally even in the powers of the creative writer that have been her principal source of self-justification.

'Elizabeth Costello' is a paradoxical book. It presents itself as a novel, but is based around previously published material that appeared at different times in different places and in forms that are not clearly novelistic or even fictional. We are told that it is fiction; but much of the material is clearly autobiographical in origin, and the central character, whose personality and concerns hold the disparate sections together, might be caricatured as Coetzee in a dress.

In spite of this variousness, and what one might call its centrifugal tendencies - the book threatening to fly apart - I found that 'Elizabeth Costello' works as a novel. It was published in the year in which Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the intelligence and seriousness that mark the author's earlier work are everywhere apparent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Kahnemann on 16 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Through the title character, Coetzee criticizes some over-conservative, heartless and perhaps thoughtless assumptions that underlie academia and society. The result is a startling series of literate thought experiments that would rival Julian Baggini's in their conception and any great novel's in their stark imagery. Costello's views are similar to Coetzee's, and Coetzee writes so persuasively that some of the passages from Elizabeth Costello have been cited time and again by philosophers in their essays.
If you would like to open your mind to a broader scope outside the blase assumptions that many academics and other thinkers make, then you must read this book. If you do not, then equally you must read it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with the other reviewers - to call this a novel is completely wrong. I suspect the extraordinary J. M. Coetzee was pushed into this by his publishers, keen to catch as many readers as possible in the net, but it was a mistake. I would have much preferred to be told from the start that this is a collection of essays, rather than being lied to and served up essays and a discussion of pure ideas under the guise of a contrived and incomplete narrative, with no story and a main character who is a famous writer and clearly Coetzee's pensive alter ego.

So I too wasted a lot of time looking for the story etc, and I can understand the frustration readers have expressed on finding there was none. I mean, there really was no need for the subterfuge; we're not all a bunch of clods, many of us WILL buy and read a book of essays.

Having said that, I found the essays themselves superb. Balanced arguments persuasively made, and so masterfully written that I became interested even in the matters I didn't care much about, or disagreed with. There is an obvious homage to Kafka at the end which I also found very good and deeply unsettling and thought-provoking. Well worth a read.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 14 Oct. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Costello is a famous Australian writer who spends much of her later years travelling the world and giving lectures. Like many famous people Costello has an uncomfortable relationship with her fame. At times she simply goes through the motions, remaining disconnected from her speeches and satisfying many of her listeners. However, on many occasions sited throughout this novel she spontaneously decides to speak about something she actually believes in. The results are usually unpopular thoughts that her audience has no interest in. Costello is trying to sort through her past while coming to conclusions about the meaning of life. Her strained relationships with her children and sister leave her a highly isolated individual grappling with her battered psyche. Despite the unpopularity of her recent ideas, her fame rests securely in a novel she wrote many years ago that expands on the fictional life of James Joyce's Molly Bloom.
Coetzee has done something both astonishing and baffling with this novel. At the back of the book he lists his acknowledgements. The truth is that substantial amounts of this novel are lectures that Coetzee himself has previously given and/or published before. As the novel progresses these lectures are integrated less into the story until the final short section which seems to hang very precariously upon the end of the novel and bears no obvious relation to the story. Rather than give us just a straightforward critique of literary fame integrated into his story, Coetzee also mocks how novels are traditionally constructed by writing what amounts to very little story to link these disconnected works. This isn't to say that it makes a bad novel. On the contrary, the story is very effective. I only longed to hear more.
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