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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: 180,301 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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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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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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By A Customer on 14 May 2003
Format: Paperback
I am surprised by the ambivalent reviews of this book. I have read several of JM Coetzees books and this is my favourite. Coetzee is a very intelligent and penetrating writer - perhaps this is why his writing has been characterised here as detached. In my opinion, this feature is a virtue. Along with his spare, almost poetic style, this is what makes his books so utterly exhilarating.
'Youth' gets to the heart of the confusion facing a young man torn between worldly constraint and artistic ambition. The everyday dilemmas and insecurities he faces occupy his time more and more as he searches for some kind of grander purpose or secret of artistic success. This is a book that will hypnotize those who have ever found themselves questioning their own life-choices. As the protagonist feels his destiny slowly escaping him, we are left, not with feelings of hopelessness, but with a profound and motivating lesson about the futility of neuroticism and inaction. A wonderful book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very disappointing book. The central character is monotonously uninspiring and I was tired of the contents after persevering to half way. I skip-read the rest just to check for possible improvement but it simply wasn't there.

Perhaps I didn't 'get' it ??
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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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Slowly paced, introspective and disconcertingly downbeat, J.M. Coetzee's 'Youth' is a sometimes powerful, but flawed novel. The narrative focuses on John, a disillusioned mathematics student from Cape Town, who flees South Africa (which he sees as backwards and dangerous) to move to London, with aspirations of being a poet. John's struggle is a largely unhappy one, and whilst this is in keeping with the theme of alienation, which Coetzee has consistently proved himself a master of, this is a novel which sometimes becomes too much a diatribe about the misery of life; something which Coetzee thankfully avoids in most of his novels. The novel's premise is an interesting one, and Coetzee's depictions of the landscapes and histories of South Africa, and of London, are both commendably realistic, and invitingly poetic. Coetzee's use of language is also characteristically excellent, and 'Youth' is a novel which shows a particular knack for complex metaphors, and reveals some both deeply personal and also universal truths about its protagonist, John.

John, however, is the main problem with 'Youth' as a novel. Whilst it is understandable of Coetzee to depict the frustrations and anger of the thwarted intellectual, in 'Youth', his protagonist is a frustrating, contradictory, annoyingly hyperbolic, and worse than all of that - downright dull, narrator. Coetzee's incessant channeling of the book's major themes, through the arrogant John, is not simply a case of giving us an unreliable narrator, it is a case of giving us a largely useless one; a narrator whom constantly divulges into in-depth analyses of Ezra Pound's poetry, whilst he unrealistically (and perhaps misogyny can be leveled at Coetzee, here) seems, without possessing any charm, to be able to bed all manner of women, at ease.
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