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Youth Paperback – 6 Feb 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (6 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099433621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099433620
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Brilliant...a remarkable feat" (Sunday Times)

"Only a writer as great as J. M. Coetzee is capable of infusing meditation on the spoilt hope of youth with such clarity, fluency and poise... The quality of the writing and its unflinching truthfulness make it exhilarating" (Daily Mail)

"This taut novel possesses the edgy grace that has consistently marked Coetzee's work" (Irish Times)

"Tightly woven, each line detonating with meaning" (Glasgow Herald)

"A memorable picture of the harshness London can offer to incomers... Youth is a wonderful book: a Bildungsroman, or portrait of the artist as a young man, to rank with any in the canon" (Evening Standard)

Book Description

'One of the finest authors writing in the English language today' The Times

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm a Bracknell-based African computer programmer who once had aspirations of being a writer. So reading a book about a Bracknell-based African computer programmer who once had aspirations of being a writer was either going to leave me breathless or livid.
Youth is not a book in which very much happens - and that's because it's a book about real life. The real life of a young man finding his feet in an alien country. But the beauty of Youth is not something as mundane as excitement (any book can give you that), it's the truthfulness of the book (I should know: see paragraph 1). It is the most well-realised book I've read in ages, and in its nuances it contains more feeling than library-fuls of other books.
I guess what I'm saying is that you'll either love it - or be bored silly by it. I loved it. Which is fortunate since it seems so much to be the story of my life.
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For someone like myself who is interested in writing and in mathematics, I loved this book and didn't want it to end. Coetzee is too cold-hearted to fall in love, too idiosyncratic to make friends and too anal to begin writing so ends up in computers instead. His internal battles rage on. Wonderful stuff. By the way, were the shops really closed on Saturday afternoons in Bracknell in 1963?
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By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 April 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Coetzee's second autobiographical novel is a story of flights and also an 'Education sentimentale'.

It is a flight from the oppressiveness of his family and the love of his mother - `the bond with the firstborn' -, from the socio-political situation in South-Africa - `an albatross around his neck' - and from mortgage shackles. In one word, it is a flight to freedom.
He arrives in London, but the city turns him into a beaten dog: no work, no stay. He quickly understands that the struggle for life is still going on, that he will have to find his place in the world and that he has to prove that he belongs to this earth.

Intellectually, he is attracted to Pure Thought (mathematics), but he also wants to become a poet. He makes his first encounters (through reading and radio programs) with world literature, e.g. Joseph Brodsky who teaches him that `poetry is truth'.

Sentimentally, he has to fight against his own depths of coldness, callousness, caddishness, his lack of heat and heart. He falls in love with filmdivas, but his own love (better: sex) life is not that of a `fine' author.

In impeccable prose, J.M. Coetzee painted without any shame a very realistic picture of a `Youth-struggle'.
Not to be missed.
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Format: Paperback
Piqued by his laureate status, I decided to sample Coetzee, and picked this book for its slimness and because I had heard such mixed opinion of Disgrace. I think it might be the most beautifully written book I have read, not only for the grace of the prose and the wonder of the phrasing, but also for the gentle tragicomedy of what seems a simple tale. I had an unerring feeling throughout the book that the velvet prose was restraining an iron fisted mind and having now read Disgrace and Master of Petersburg, I think this is true. Youth seems to be Coetzee in more gentle and reflective tone and, whilst I have enjoyed his other darker work, Youth is my favourite to date.
He may not be everyone's cup of tea but I think I am beginning to understand why he was made a Nobel laureate. If you already like Coetzee then I would guess that you will love Youth. If you don't know Coetzee this book is a good place to start to understand a true master of the English language.
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Format: Paperback
I found Coetzee's English usage most interesting, with some sentences to relish. But, the paragraphs were less interesting. One major problem for me is that the main character always seemed to be taking, and never giving. In consequence, I found him drab, uninteresting, and unrewarding. There were many excitements and much to savour in the England of the late 1950s/early 1960s and this character and, presumably, this author, just didn't seem able to appreciate any of it.
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Format: Paperback
"Youth", which appeared in 2002, is both a novel and a fictionalised autobiography. It draws heavily on the author's own experience of young manhood: but it isn't necessary for the reader to know anything about this to appreciate the book as a work of fiction.

At the core of his narrator's sense of self, as a young white growing up in the intensely racist South Africa of the 1950s, is a peculiar conviction: that he will be a literary artist, though nothing in his background and education really destines him for the task, and he has only intermittent, wavering belief in his own abilities. Coetzee captures perfectly the vacillations and listlessness of the awkward stage of life in which a person has to decide who they are and what they will do.

In the short term, this conviction is disabling, unfitting him for everyday life and derailing his efforts to construct a viable mode of existence. He drifts through a succession of academic dead ends, unexciting jobs and dysfunctional relationships, each of which terminates in disappointment and self-disgust. Moving in the early '60s from South Africa to England, he seems as much to be fleeing capture by the mundane as actively seeking the centre of literary activity.

Coetzee is a master of the unpalatable truth, and he is quite merciless here at the expense of his younger self, as refracted through his young protagonist. His bone-dry sense of humour has plenty of material to work on: his young man is priggish, naïve, gauche, selfish; and yet in spite of this Coetzee managed to engage my sympathy. There is a sense of truth in the telling of the tale, and there were many moments in which I found myself laughing or wincing in recognition.
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