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The Childhood of Jesus [Hardcover]

J M Coetzee
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
RRP: £16.99
Price: £13.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Mar 2013

After crossing oceans, a man and a boy arrive in a new land. Here they are each assigned a name and an age, and held in a camp in the desert while they learn Spanish, the language of their new country. As Simón and David they make their way to the relocation centre in the city of Novilla, where officialdom treats them politely but not necessarily helpfully.

Simón finds a job in a grain wharf. The work is unfamiliar and backbreaking, but he soon warms to his stevedore comrades, who during breaks conduct philosophical dialogues on the dignity of labour, and generally take him to their hearts.

Now he must set about his task of locating the boy’s mother. Though like everyone else who arrives in this new country he seems to be washed clean of all traces of memory, he is convinced he will know her when he sees her. And indeed, while walking with the boy in the countryside Simón catches sight of a woman he is certain is the mother, and persuades her to assume the role.

David's new mother comes to realise that he is an exceptional child, a bright, dreamy boy with highly unusual ideas about the world. But the school authorities detect a rebellious streak in him and insist he be sent to a special school far away. His mother refuses to yield him up, and it is Simón who must drive the car as the trio flees across the mountains.

THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS is a profound, beautiful and continually surprising novel from a very great writer.


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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: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,909 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

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good 9 Mar 2014
By David
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
4.0 out of 5 stars enigmatic and chilly 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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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Between the Numbers 7 Mar 2013
By Mooch
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Coetzee's Utopia 8 Aug 2014
By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
J. M. Coetzee has always been an ambitious writer, tackling head on major human problems, be those on the individual or on the societal level.
‘The Childhood of Jesus’ is in this way not an exceptional Coetzee book, albeit (again) a controversial one, directly (by what it says) or indirectly. It treats recurring themes in his work.

First of all, this book is written in impeccable prose, and is a far cry from his Beckettian beginnings.
The basic story is very simple: a man is looking for the mother of a very young boy (not his child) in a foreign country that is well organized for the integration of all foreigners who arrive at its shores. Those foreigners should, however, all be ‘washed cleanly’.

On the individual and family level, the boy is an exceptionally intelligent human being. He is helped, protected and loved in an exemplary way by his surrogate parents. Are they better, or fitter, than natural ones?
Being clever and (therefore) rebellious, the boy has big problems in the existing educational system.
On another level, the foster father is a great fan of the frugal diets based on grain in his new country.

On the societal level, the foster father becomes a longshoreman, unloading on his back vessels full of sacks of grain, real ‘bestial labour’. He proposes to mechanize the process with a crane. But, the crane is badly handled and hits him. Does this crystal clear image mean that technical progress is a curse for mankind? Because, it destroys jobs, because it makes men idle? As stated in the book: ‘I would not dream of disparaging the work we do. In the time I have spent here I have experienced nothing but comradely love. Imagine having to spend your days on a public bench with nothing to do.’ This is Kropotkin revisited.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Abstract: for Coetzee fans only (I am starting to enjoy it.)
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My partner is Polish and an immigrant and she likes this novel. She feels it is saying something to her about being an immigrant - powerless and exploited. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
What a boring uninspired book. Very dissapointing
Published 2 months ago by Zuleika Henry
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Pretty good service.
Published 2 months ago by Willem Nel
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
I'm a huge fan of Coetzee, but this book was disappointing.
Published 2 months ago by Carmel
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh heck
Here's the thing: excellent start - ambiguous, intriguing, sinister - introducing a world where 'goodwill' is a substitute for passion and individuality. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Not Stoppard
2.0 out of 5 stars which edge is this on?
After the remarkable and complex Disgrace this disappointing Coetzee is or is not an allegory and either way it muddles the rather important relation of allegory and irony to the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A mystical treat
Really enjoyed this book as much as Coetzee's others. Gave me lots to think about in between chapters and philosophise about. I think the ending was perfect (some others don't! Read more
Published 7 months ago by jojo1975
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal story questions reality
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. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Geoff Crocker
3.0 out of 5 stars serenely philosophical
The author doesn't explain the background context and history which brings us to the story. It's as if the reader has just stepped in and travels a while with the characters. Read more
Published 8 months ago by stevieB
4.0 out of 5 stars The Childhood of Jesus
I love this writer. His style is clear and spare. It's about an immigrant and lost boy who try to make a new life in a new land. Read more
Published 8 months ago by SMH Davies
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