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The Childhood of Jesus Hardcover – 7 Mar 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (7 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846557267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846557262
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.9 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,070 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

"Allegorical, faintly biblical" (Sarah Sands Evening Standard)

"As ever, JM Coetzee manages to dodge every category with mesmeric cunning... This limpid, gnomic and surprisingly witty tale will take root in your imagination’" (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

"There are lots of traditions and tales mixed in – along with mathematics and a wonderfully poetic use of language" (Financial Times)

"Richly enigmatic, with regular flashes of Coetzee's piercing intelligence" (Theo Tait Guardian)

"Engaging and thoughtful" (Theo Hobson Tablet)

Book Description

The mysterious, masterful new novel from J.M. Coetzee, twice winner of the Booker Prize and winner of the Nobel Prize

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David on 9 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Written in close third person, from the perspective of Simon, a man whose main task it is to find the mother of a boy, David, to whom he has become attached as a sort of guardian. They have arrived in a strange Spanish speaking land, via a resettlement camp, where the inhabitants seem to have been cleansed of the disagreeable human traits, such as lust, desire and anything remotely frivolous. Simon has trouble accepting this and is constantly questioning the behaviours of the people around him. E.g. how can they be satisfied with a diet of bread and water, and do they not miss physical contact?

He finds employment as a stevedore, manually unloading grain at the docks only to later find that the grain is stockpiled and left unused whilst it is eaten by rats. When he questions this, and also asks why a crane is not used instead for the sake of efficiency, he discovers that the main purpose of the work seems to be the work itself and the comradeship of the workers.

Against this backdrop he pursues his goal of finding David’s mother, though David seems to be relatively ambivalent about it. In his pursuit he seeks to do the right thing and instil in the child both a moral code and a thirst for life which frequently comes into conflict with their new environment and with David’s apparent autistic tendencies.

I read purely for enjoyment and tend not to look for - or notice - deep meanings and analogies of which, given the books title, there could be many here. However, personally, I think that Coetzee is having a bit of a laugh with us. The writing throughout is brilliantly clear, crisp and simple. Mostly set in dialogue, it is an easy but engaging read and, most importantly, very, very funny.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Worcestershire reader on 9 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the enigmatic tale of a man and a boy who arrive together in a strange land and have to build a new life there. The man is unrelated to the boy and is intent on finding the lad's lost mother.

Cool and measured in tone, and using the present tense throughout, the novel observes the stages of their journey. Where have they come from? What country are they in? Where will they end up? We are never told, and the unanswered questions, along with the puzzling title, invite interpretation.

Coetzee has relieved us of beginning and end and leaves us with pure story: a kind of fictional eternity, cool and passionless, where no meat is eaten, no love made, and everyone is rational and satisfied with their lot - except for the man, the boy, and the people that tag along with them...
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mooch on 7 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover
In tone part way between film and dream; in meaning almost a fable, not quite an allegory, Coetzee's new novel is a pleasingly elusive beast. Pleasing, that is, unless you prefer to pin down a coherent explanation or message from the books you read, in which case you may find The Childhood of Jesus maddening.

Taking place in an alternate but recognisable reality, the story follows a man (Simon) and a boy (David) who have journeyed from across 'the waters' to set up a 'new life' in a non-Spanish Spanish-speaking place called Novilla. They are not related but Simon has appointed himself David's guardian until he can find - purely by his own instinct - David's 'real mother.'

The book is about 90% dialogue and speech is strangely formal as the characters are not speaking in their first language. It appears to be set in a time resembling the fairly recent past. There are TVs, telephones, but no moblie phones or computers. Details of the world the characters inhabit are rationed to the reader, a morsel matter-of-factly given out now and then, when the story requires it, and the story takes unusual, sometimes absurd turns. All this creates a feverish, unstable atmosphere wherein we are unsure what to trust, nothing seems solid. Things in the book are both true and untrue, no-one eats meat... but actually they kind of do. People don't have sex... but in fact they sort of do. No-one remembers anything from their 'old life'... but they are able to discuss concepts that don't exist in the 'new life,' It is a world without religion... but religion, God and nuns are mentioned. It's afterlife as afterglow - ghostly remnants carry over from our world, incomplete, like a waking dream of a glimpse of a memory.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Crocker on 18 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
The young boy David and his adopted guardian Simon arrive as refugees in a strange surreal new world. Provision is very basic, but they survive. David settles with his apparent mother, while Simon works at the docks. David shows signs of autism/Asperger’s syndrome, and constantly challenges the realities he encounters. Coetzee uses this device to question accepted norms and the objectivity of nature, society, and artefacts, ranging through sex, numbers, work, the financial economy etc. Is life as we know it contingent – it could all be otherwise? The story’s characters are the human mix of good hearted and bad. It’s not clear how David represents the Jesus child motif, except in the constant questioning of his elders. It’s an absorbing story, but it doesn’t really lead anywhere intellectually.
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