Top positive review
39 people found this helpful
A gaspingly intense, implosive novel.
on 22 May 2000
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.