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Waiting for the Barbarians Hardcover – 27 Oct 1980

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 27 Oct 1980
£209.57
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd (27 Oct. 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436102951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436102950
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,089,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A story of profound beauty, clarity and eloquence, which even at its most melodramatic holds to a biblical nobility".

-- CHICAGO TRIBUNE BOOK WORLD

"A real literary event" --Irving Howe, The New York Times Book Review (front-page review)

"I have known few authors who can evoke such a wilderness in the heart of a man.... Mr. Coetzee knows the elusive terror of Kafka." --Bernard Levin, The Sunday Times (London)

"A real literary event" Irving Howe, The New York Times Book Review (front-page review)

"I have known few authors who can evoke such a wilderness in the heart of a man.... Mr. Coetzee knows the elusive terror of Kafka." Bernard Levin, The Sunday Times (London)" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

‘A remarkable and original book’ Graham Greene --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For me, this is the best of Coetzee's books. Rarely has this form of human loneliness been expressed with the same poetic and tragic ease. The desert in the story seems to grow and grow unrelentingly, stopping not even to allow the captain space to breathe. And behind the soft exposition of the plight of the isolated town in the story is pin-sharp writing; not a word has been wasted. By his very economy with words, Coetzee takes us to the edge of the abyss and we only realise it when staring hard into it. A remarkable book, and nothing less than a masterpiece.
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Format: Paperback
J M Coetzee's 1980 allegorical gem is heavily influenced by Dino Buzzati's Tartar Steppe, perhaps the most existentially melancholic novel of the twentieth century. Both are set in remote outposts in vast empty wildernesses where man and his constructions are literally just dots on the horizon. In each book there is an enemy, undefined except by rumour and by name: the northerners in Buzzati, the barbarians in Coetzee (though he does once refer to them as northerners, thus signifying his debt to Buzzati). However, the other worldliness of the Tartar Steppe is given a definite point of reference in Waiting for the Barbarians; that of a repressive imperial state resembling in theme, if not environment, Vorster's apartheid South Africa.
The narrator is a lonely magistrate in a frontier town who, though far from the centre of the oppressive state security apparatus, is complicit in its existence by administering its laws (and abusing his position by frequent sexual dalliances with vulnerable women). It doesn't take participation, just indifference, a blind eye. Although always uneasy about his role in the system, he continues as benignly as possible in order to lead a quiet life. It is only on the arrival of a group of interrogators, and having witnessed their arbitrary and brutal methods, that he instinctively rebels. At one point a girl is invited to pick up a rod and beat a prisoner in the yard. `You are depraving these people!' he shouts. He is thus branded an enemy of the state and a `barbarian lover' and committed to prison and subjected to a regime of humiliation and degradation. The breathless tension that follows is extraordinary at times.
All tyrannies survive on a diet of rumour, propaganda and lies, and eventually lose touch with reality and fall.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this softly written, almost poetic book. It is an allegorical tale, exploring oppression, guilt and personal morality, and set in a strange and timeless place 'on the edge of the Empire:' The story of a gentle man whose motives are always mixed, but who in the end is the prime force for decency and humanity in the enclosed world he inhabits. Well written in a simple and earthy style that still allows the author to handle the broad themes of guilt and redemption. Coetzee creates a real sense of life on the edge of a literal and metaphysical desert, and by the end of the book, there is no doubt just who the Barbarians are.
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By A Customer on 21 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is, or should be, the envy of every author. Spare, tight, simple, pure, beatuiful and horrifying.
Coetzee is the greatest master of transporting the reader into the terrifying empty spaces within himself and laying them out vivisected and exposed.
If you fear to know yourself, never read him. John Coetzee reveals truths that perhaps no one should want to know, but every soul contains. A fearless writer, a ruthless analyst, and probably one of the greatest living men of thought.
Coetzee is, quite simply, the greatest living author, and possibly they best since Dostoevsky.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Poetic prose at its most powerful. 'We are the great miracle of creation!' screams The Magistrate in a desperate attempt to discourage The Colonel's men from smashing the skulls of the captive Barbarians with hammers. But beware of what you ask of your reader. Coetzee's novel asks questions; who should make the laws, are there occasions when they can be broken, where does cruelty come from, why does mankind have a compulsion to humiliate his neighbour, how do we deal with our sexuality, is old age as terrifying as we think it is? And just as satire has been proven not to change the behaviour of those who are satirized why should this novel make any difference to Man? Though the questions could not be more beautifully posed they are too monumental for each of us to even begin to engage with, and the feelings they produce in the reader are anger, guilt, frustration, and depression. In a hundred years time there will still be novels like this asking exactly the same questions.
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By A Customer on 28 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is strong meat, a book about man's inhumanity to other men, and how torture and brutality can destroy the soul. Also uplifting in a bizarre defiant way. The themes are strong and forceful, the writing precise and elegant, the storyline utterly compelling. The protagonist spirals down into a hellish existence without really understanding his own motivations, and we can only watch and be shocked. This book really has the power to disturb. I would recommened it as highly as any of Coetzee's other great novels.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent read for anyone who takes philosophic interest in society. It allows one to consider the forces which impact when fear takes hold of group of people and the eroding effects they have on the mind. It portrays the fear of the conventional person for the thought of losing the status quo to alien outside influences. In this it remains topical for all modern societies who fear the inrush of "immigration with its multiplicity of intrusive threats".
It is a book for someone who wants to remain thinking about the subject once they have finished reading.
All Coetzee's books are extremely well crafted so a pleasure to read.
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