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In the Heart of the Country [Paperback]

J.M. Coetzee
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 23 1997
Stifled by the torpor of colonial South Africa, and trapped in a web of reciprocal oppression, a lonely sheep farmer seeks comfort in the arms of a black concubine. But when his embittered spinster daughter Magda feels shamed, this lurch across the racial divide marks the end of a tenuous feudal peace. As she dreams madly of bloody revenge, Magda's consciousnes sstarts to drift and the line between fact and the workings of her excited imagination becomes blurred. What follows is the fable of a woman's passionate, obsessed and violent response to an Africa that will not heed her.

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"A powerful study of lust, degradation and fantasy" Observer "It says something about the loneliness, about the craving for love, about the relation between master and slave and between white and black, and about man's earthly anguish and longing for salvation - in a way you do not easily escape from once it has gripped you" -- Andre Brink "The writing and mood are a remarkable piece of sustained intensity... One false word could have ruined this short tour de force completely. It never does" Daily Telegraph "An intellectual lyric which sings the absence of history, the electric lull before history breaks... As a piece of cultural psychoanalysis and diagnosis, it's glitteringly precise" -- Tom Paulin --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

J.M. Coetzee’s work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, The Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, Youth, and Disgrace which won the Booker Prize, making him the first author to have won it twice.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Writing of her Dis-aster Sept. 13 2002
By Hicham
In the Heart of the Country tells the story of Magda, an old spinster who lives à huis clos with her father, her step-mother and the servants Henrik and Klein Anna, on a far-flung farm in the middle of the veld. The novel is set at an unspecified time, the present tense heightens this sense of timelessness. Madga's dis-aster starts at her birth since she is not the male heir that the baas has long wished for and who will keep the lineage alive. Therefore, Magda's only way of making a show of resistance to this despotic patriarch is to write her story and make her voice heard so as not to be "one of the forgotten ones of history" (3).
The novel is structured in fragments numbered from 1 to 266 to convey a seeming sense of linearity and thus give the reader a precarious fil conducteur to hold on to. But, by and by, the reading becomes somewhat disorienting and dis-astrous. Indeed, the boundary between reality and imagination is often blurred to our detriment since we vacillate endlessly between the two. Magda's narrative is riddled with adverbs of uncertainty, repetitions and at times contradictions. Yet, she has managed to accomplish an ingenious feat : captivate the reader's attention until the last page of the novel only to realize that s/he comes out of it none the wiser because all the contradictions that permeate the novel remain baffling.
Coetzee's novel achieves a double goal. First, to give voice to the voiceless Other, Magda, allowing her to dissolve the totalising linearity of the patriarchal discourse. Second, to condemn Apartheid as an authoritarian regime and portend its demise, and in both endeavours Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country has succeeded masterfully.
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5.0 out of 5 stars second in a row July 8 2004
After completing 'Dusklands', Coetzee's first (and worst) novel, I stunbled upon this narrative. Considering that only few years has passed between these books, I expected nothing, only disappointment. Well, I must confess, I was utterly wrong.
Narrative is set 'in the heart of the country' - in the middle of the Africe, showing us a father and daughter on a small, outback farm... nothing special so far... One day, father gets himself a new lover and that causes breakdown in a daughter who yearned for his love and couldn't stand some other woman to take her place... Nothing special so far either.
What makes it so special. When one reads Magda's thoughts one can not but think of all the lonely people out there, madneses that roam the wilderness, hidden and forbidden, dangerous... Presenting the portrait of every madman out there, mixing the reality and imagination, bloody and violent worlds that intermix each other... Coetzee finds his words exactly as they should be, there is no overwrighting, there is no endless narrative, only concise thoughts of not so concise mind. Brilliant book...!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars are not enough Oct. 19 2001
It is not a question of loving Coetzee, but of loving great literature. This is great literature. Disregard poor reviews. This work is so well written, so moving and finely wrought. It stands beside not only the best of Coetzee's work, but also the best work of the 20th Century. It is fiction and meta-fiction. A pastoral novel and a novel about the pastoral novel. An acheivement of the hightest order!
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