Life and Times of Michael K Paperback – 2 Sep 2004
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"A strong and memorable novel" (Guardian)
"It strikes deep inside the heart...The story is clean, clear, straight, the work of a mature imagination at full power...here is a book that will be celebrated for a long time" (Mail on Sunday)
"This is a trule astonishing novel... I finished Life & Times of Michael K in a state of elation, for all the misery and suffering it contains. I cannot recommend it highly enough" (Evening Standard)
"Beautifully written in a strong, plain, unpretentious style...distinguished by grim humour and powerful understatement" (Sunday Express)
"The quality of Coetzee's writing lies in his inner vision: dark, passionately compassionate, concerned with the nature of man" (Financial Times)
WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE 2003See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I would recommend it a thousand times over - an unforgettable masterpiece for those who understand personal struggle. As I read the final words I dived straight back to the beginning.
The hardship can seem oppressive to the reader, particularly if you expect some of the more rounded colourings of Alan Paton or Doris Lessing's African works, but perseverance is more than worthwhile. The book can be divided into two main sections, each viewing the world from a distinct perspective: one black, one white. Neither is at ease, nor optimistic, yet, despite the air of oppressive hardship and misery, the ending is something quite unexpected, refreshing, and enlivening. It is too simple to refer to it as optimism or hope, simply a reversion to a simple universal truth.
This novel is both a classic of South Africa, and a classic novel of universal appeal. Despite its slimness it is one of the most moving works I have ever read, and perhaps particularly rare for being able to deal with the subject of a black man in apartheid South Africa without ever being a manifesto or sermon. It is simply a eulogy of humanity.
Coetzee writes with an economy and simple elegance which can be misleading. His prose can seem so plain there is a danger one thinks the story is plain too. In fact he draws with the economy of line of a great artist - and through it, like great artists, he achieves great beauty.
Michael K is a man for whom no one has ever much cared, and who consequently cares nothing for himself. He stumbles through civil war torn South Africa and is kicked about like a stone; not a rough, awkward protesting stone, but like a smooth stone, 'like a pebble that having lain around quietly minding its own business since the dawn of time, is now suddenly picked up and tossed randomly from hand to hand.' And is indestructible.
This is a short book that should be read at a run, not picked up and put down. The narrative may seem meandering. Those who encounter K are so perplexed by him they barely bother with him; and he is never bothered by them. The stone is merely kicked about. The point, for some time, seems obscure.
But then the stone that is K lands in the possession of someone different: of someone good. And now, for the first time, K becomes a disturbance; he creates anxiety, he upsets the status quo. And the moral of the tale reveals itself: sometimes, amidst the banality of institutionalised evil, it requires the extraordinary to make good people see the truth - even if, in this case, what is extraordinary is K's extreme ordinariness.Read more ›
Set in Apartheid era South Africa during a fictionalised civil war, Michael K is a gardener and an outsider in Cape Town. He tries to return his sick mother to her rural birthplace, but lacks the appropriate paperwork and permissions. He is robbed, arrested, placed in an internment camp for vagrants and suffers the injustices of a grossly unfair system. However, he also learns to survive on his own and discovers a form of true freedom that is beyond the understanding of others. The image that concludes the book is as fine an image of the true value and resilience of life as I have read in a long time. What could so easily have been a book about the futility of life, becomes a challenge and a source of hope.
I love the directness of Coetzee's writing. Nothing is wasted. He is a two-time winner of the Booker Prize, and I would argue that this is the better of his two prizewinners. I recently had the misfortune to read a Booker shortlisted novel which the publisher had described as '... a novel to be talked of in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, thought-provoking and life-changing.' That description would be much better suited to Life & Times of Michael K. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a book of heartache but it opens your eyes to the extreme poverty of that era. Read morePublished 7 months ago by JAA
This is a powerful and beautifully written novel about human nature, companionship, relationship to the physical world, and charity. Read morePublished 8 months ago by M. V. Clarke
A deep and very engaging book on some levels. The completely rotten luck of poor Michael from birth made you wonder what would become of him. Read morePublished 11 months ago by MR IAN THURMAN
Another beautiful book from Coetzee. The character of Michael K stays with you long after the final page...Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
Every so often his name changes - K; Michael; Michaels; "metaphor"; Treefeller. Nobody knows Michael, but Michael, but everyone wants to label him. Read morePublished 18 months ago by katrina_marina
A good quick read and thought provoking. Excellent for book groups. We had a great discussion about itPublished 21 months ago by GilesNick