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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two technically superb novellas tackling challenging themes
Dusklands is a technically brilliant book, although it is sometimes difficult to penetrate. It tackles such themes as slavery, power and the relationship between truth and memory.
It is split into two novellas which, although set in different countries and different periods of history, have many similarities. This is particularly apparent in the way the central...
Published on 5 Jan 2002 by me@davequinn.net

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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dusky Dawn
Being Coetzee's first work of fiction, Dusklands marks the signs of a debut work. It consists of two separate narratives set in different times and places, but united by a common theme of racist oppression. The first narrative is set in Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. The U.S. is shown as a colonial power and the Vietnamese are shown to be suffering under its attacks...
Published on 31 Dec 2009 by Pankaj Saxena


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two technically superb novellas tackling challenging themes, 5 Jan 2002
This review is from: Dusklands (Paperback)
Dusklands is a technically brilliant book, although it is sometimes difficult to penetrate. It tackles such themes as slavery, power and the relationship between truth and memory.
It is split into two novellas which, although set in different countries and different periods of history, have many similarities. This is particularly apparent in the way the central characters are driven first to madness, then to perverse acts of violence, towards those supposedly close to them.
Coetzee's prose style in this, his first book, is as sparse as in his later work. The second narrative in particular contains some staggering feats of description and the clarity with which the author illustrates the decline of the Boer frontiersman through illness is exhilarating.
This is not an easy book to pick up and dip into. It demands a lot from the reader, it is at times disorientating and, by the end, it offers few firm conclusions about the issues it tackles. However, it should be required reading for anyone who enjoyed any of Coetzee's more popular later novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dusklands by J M Coetzee, 10 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Dusklands (Paperback)
This is a very sad and quite unpleasant book, but beautifully written, and extremely original and interesting. Will read it again.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and incisive, 30 July 2004
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HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dusklands (Paperback)
"Dusklands" consists of two very different parts. In "The Vietnam Project", Mr Coetzee tells the story of Eugene Dawn, a specialist in psychological warfare whose task it is to establish a document called the Vietnam Project dealing with the so-called Phase IV of the Vietnam conflict in the years 1973-1974. To give his imagination a helpful impulse, Dawn carries with him photographs that will illustrate the report. They show gruesome scenes of the war like for example sergeant Clifford Houston copulating with a Vietnamese woman or two other sergeants, Berry and Wilson, posing with several severed Vietnamese heads as trophies. But soon Dawn is driven to breakdown and madness by the stress of this macabre project to win the war in Vietnam. After having been driven to a nearly fatal assault on his child Martin, Dawn is placed in an institution. The text closes with Dawn reflecting as follows: "I have high hopes of finding whose fault I am."
"The narrative of Jacobus Coetzee" is actually a translation from Afrikaans by J.M. Coetzee of a text published in 1762. It is the account of a hideous vengeance of a frontiersman on a tribe of Hottentots in South Africa.
Both Eugene Dawn in the 1970s and Jacobus Coetzee in the 1760s are dealers in death who claim their humanity and impressively express their feelings of guilt.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First novel, 5 Oct 2003
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c morgan (port talbot, west glam United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dusklands (Paperback)
One of my favourite Coetzee novels: Sharp, incisive, penetrative, crucially and brilliantly perceptive, especially on the issues of violence and cruelty. A very technically tight first novel.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dusky Dawn, 31 Dec 2009
By 
Pankaj Saxena "...the typist of Gwalior" (Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dusklands (Paperback)
Being Coetzee's first work of fiction, Dusklands marks the signs of a debut work. It consists of two separate narratives set in different times and places, but united by a common theme of racist oppression. The first narrative is set in Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. The U.S. is shown as a colonial power and the Vietnamese are shown to be suffering under its attacks. The protagonist is a captain, who sees the `truth' and tries to convince the authorities to see it too, but predictably fails. Driven into frustration he kills his own son.

In the other narrative, a seventeenth century white explorer leads an expedition in the heart of the native territory. A petty incident is interpreted by him as an attack on the Empire and in a second attack he destroys the entire tribe, including his former servants.

The narratives are hard to read and it's not easy to keep track of events, especially if we compare it with other works of Coetzee. Language is complex and the reader has certain difficulties in muddling through the text.

Coetzee's vehement anti-Americanism shows the fervor of 1970s and Coetzee's own youthful convictions. His leftist sympathies are clear and one feels that the parallels drawn between the apartheid regime of South Africa and the U.S. Government is forced and artificial.

First of all, the blacks have equal rights in the U.S. and the State does not discriminate against them. The apartheid regime had occupied the land of Africa, driven out the natives, killing indiscriminately and extirpating a lot of cultures and tribes. We have no such equivalent in Vietnam War. The U.S. did not kill innocent civilians. It did not displace people by transplanting American people on the Vietnamese land. It did not try to convert the natives.

Secondly, the Vietnam War was initiated by the Communists. Soviet Union and China were the clear aggressors. In a post-1945 world, they had blatantly tried to overrun a free country torturing and massacring thousands of locals who opposed the Communist invaders. The U.S. jumped in only to prevent another country becoming Communist. In the process, it saved Vietnam the pain of a nationwide cultural destruction, like of which China had to suffer during the Cultural Revolution. There were some tactical mistakes on the part of the U.S., but the Vietnam War was a Communist folly. The U.S. had to pay for a crime of communists. It was due to the heavily biased leftist media of the Cold War era, which through selective reporting turned the public opinion of Americans against their own country.

After failing to gain a foothold in Vietnam, KGB's main focus was to slander America in which it succeeded. Many of the journalists and academicians were on the payroll of the Communists; many others with humanist concerns were swept away in the mass hysteria of 1970s anti-Americanism. Coetzee was one of such gullible humanists.

This work should be seen in this light; keeping in mind that the author had strong leftist sympathies and commitment when he wrote this work.
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Dusklands
Dusklands by J M Coetzee (Paperback - 6 Aug 1998)
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