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In The Heart Of The Country [Paperback]

J M Coetzee
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

2 Sep 2004

Stifled by the torpor of colonial South Africa and trapped in a web of reciprocal oppression, a lonely sheep farmer seeks comfort in the arms of a black concubine. But when his embittered spinster daughter Magda feels shamed, this lurch across the racial divide marks the end of a tenuous feudal peace.

As she dreams madly of bloody revenge, Magda's consciousness starts to drift and the line between fact and the workings of her excited imagination becomes blurred. What follows is the fable of a woman's passionate, obsessed and violent response to an Africa that will not heed her.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099465949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099465942
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,335 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


"A powerful study of lust, degradation and fantasy" (Observer)

"It says something about the loneliness, about the craving for love, about the relation between master and slave and between white and black, and about man's earthly anguish and longing for salvation - in a way you do not easily escape from once it has gripped you" (Andre Brink)

"The writing and mood are a remarkable piece of sustained intensity... One false word could have ruined this short tour de force completely. It never does" (Daily Telegraph)

"An intellectual lyric which sings the absence of history, the electric lull before history breaks... As a piece of cultural psychoanalysis and diagnosis, it's glitteringly precise" (Tom Paulin)

Book Description

An intense, unsettling, remarkable novel of a mind in decline from a writer unparralleled in fiction.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gaspingly intense, implosive novel. 22 May 2000
By A Customer
Of the world-renowned South African writers, JM Coetzee is best known for his laconic turn of phrase and spare prose. It is this distinctive style which sets his novels apart from the prose of authors such as Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer, who tend to lean more towards an accentuation of the florid and the richly descriptive. Coetzee's work is also starkly allegorical and brutal. He is known for scratching away the surface of the countryside - the more barren the better -†to scratch away simultaneously at the human psyche. In the Heart of the Country simultaneously cements his oeuvre and departs from what we are used to. His chief protagonist, the repressed yet stoical Magda, appears on every page. It is the narrative, first-person stream of consciousness told in a form reflecting diary entries but in truth spasms of emotion spat out by her mind at the world, which makes the book stand out. The narrative, of what there is to speak of, suggests a journey which is never made entirely clear. The point seems more to be in the methodology of the power of the words themselves rather than the story they eventually bring across. Each page tightens its grip on the reader. As the heat of the Karoo builds up, more secrets are revealed, and we are swept along with Magda's plight irrevocably. Coetzee has written a commanding, gripping novel of the highest order. It is also an implosive novel, as, similar to his other work, it offers no solutions, only resolutions. The heart of the country, as Coetzee asserts, is the hardest, harshest place to find. Essential reading.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The stifling torpor of colonial South Africa 9 Feb 2006
Magda is a lonely and embittered spinster who lives on a sheep farm in the heart of South Africa. Her mother died in childbirth, the cause of which Magda attributes to her father's "relentless sexual demands". Her bitterness comes from the fact that she feels that she has been an absence all her life to her father. They have always fronted each other in silence and so Magda became an unhappy peasant, "a miserable black virgin, "the mad hag" she is destined to be, having grown up with the servants' children.
Deprived of human intercourse, Magda realises that she overvalues the imagination. That is why when her father brings home a new bride, she fantacises of killing them both with an axe. The lonely farm is the place where she is "devoured by boredom", engulfed in the "monologue of the self" like a maze of words out of which she can't escape and she feels doomed to expire there "in the heart of the country", "in the middle of nowhere", a place she considers "was never intended that people should live here". Magda's father's sexual relationship with Hendrik's wife, the black servant, only adds to her dismay. It thus doesn't come as a surprise, given Magda's psychological disposition, that she often dreams of burning everything down and that she is actually about to murder the one person she considers responsible for her despair. After that, what is left for her but an inexorable descent into madness?
As André Brink stated about this novel: "It says something about loneliness, about craving for love, about the relation between master and slave and between white and black, and about a man's earthly anguish and longing for salvation - in a way you do not easily escape from once it has gripped you".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
J.M Coetzy proves once more his deep compassion and knowledge concerning the nature of Man . "In the heart of the country" reminds one how a human being deprived of love in childhood can destroy their social & mind structure in later life. Magda's craving for the love of her father denied to her leads her to madness and revenge. When you have read one of Coetzee's novel, you want to read them all, then you will know that all you want to know about J.M C as he only reveals himself in his novels. J.M C , THE MAN is a sensitive,noble hearted and exceptional man concerneded with the suffering of all living beings.
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