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Life and Times of Michael K Hardcover – Mar 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Mar 2006
CDN$ 253.41
CDN$ 253.41

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Oak Tree Press; De luxe limited signed ed edition (March 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0955014611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955014611
  • Shipping Weight: 789 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
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Product Description


"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 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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

In a south Africa turned by war, Michael K. sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. This life affirming novel goes to the center of human experience-the need for an interior, spiritual life; for some connections to the world in which we live; and for purity of vision. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
LIFE AND TIMES reminded me in many ways of two other books I've recently come across: Hosseni's KITE RUNNER and another book called THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, both of which are great and riveting. But this neat little book about a slow-witted man in civil-war torn South Africa will really make you think. Michael K is part Huck Finn, part Rodya from "Crime and Punishment", part Gollum, and part Robinson Crusoe (and possibly, Josepf K from Kafka's "The Trial"). He takes on a characteristic of each of those characters during his adventure to get his mother back to the land of her youth. He has an uncomfortable relationship with food, and his struggle to feed himself is very odd indeed. After reading this book, I felt that I should build a cabin for myself far away from everyone else and create my own environment.
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Format: Paperback
In a world flooded by turmoil and bereft of innocence, Michael K, simple, skeletal gardener and loyal son, stands alone. In the midst of war in South Africa, K withdraws himself from life, as we know it, and regresses, devolves, in order to survive his true bereavement; the loss of opportunity to tend the gardens of the city. This may appear callous at first, considering the event of his mother's death early in the story, and perhaps oversimplified, but K is 'simple', after all.
The backdrop of war is a clever one. War relies heavily on definition, on who we are and which side we are on, with the hope of those in power that a conclusion to this issue will indicate what is to be 'done' with us. It is an assumption the other characters in the story have, their seeming ability to define or classify K variously as homeless, as a walking representation of death, or as a saviour, that builds the concept of his character for the reader. He fits all, and simultaneously none, of these personas. K is resistant to any entirely accurate definition, as everyone in existence is, and it is refreshing, in a world so obsessed with naming and classifying, to be reminded of this.
There is a poignant contrast between K's worldview and his occupation. He is very much involved with the 'smaller picture', primarily focussed on what he is able to do 'right now', looking to his own immediate experiences as a guide. Even his name, 'K', is a reduction to the barest of necessities. But gardening, for which he expresses his only great desire, is innately long-term, requiring the ability to predict and counter outcomes and problems, respectively. This polarity demonstrates, with precision, two spheres of human existence, the instinctual and the rational.
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Format: Paperback
J. M. Coetzee was awared the Booker Prize for this book back in 1983, so I had great expectations for this book. "Life & Times of Michael K" did not disappoint me, and I think it is highly deserving of the Booker prize.
The story is set in South Africa, in the midst of poverty, Apartheid, and Civil war. We enter the story when Michael K is 30 years old, and working as a gardener. Michael K was born with a harelip, which has never been fixed. His mother, Anna K, works as a maid for the Buhrmann family. As the civil war erupts the family Anna was working for flees out of town. While continuing to watch out for the apartment and the belongings to her employer, Anna falls ill. She has only one wish that K takes her back to Prince Albert where she was born.
On their way there (fleeing in the night, K pushing his mother in wheelbarrow) a day or two in to their journey, Anna is admitted to a hospital where she shortly after passes away. K is devastated with grief, and he looses all energy to continue. He finally makes it to Prince Albert, carrying his mothers ashes in a box. The war catches up with K, and he is taken to a camp where everyone is given food and shelter in return for their labour. K (or "Michaels" as one of the guards calls him) seeks no physical contacts with others, he feels no hunger and as a result, we see this mentally sleeping skeleton emerge.
K continues to flee from the camp where he is held. We follow his struggle to live his life the way he wants to, free and as one with nature.
The author introduces us to a topic that those of us who are not South Africans will probably never quite understand. Coetzee is a splendid writer, and his writing style is compelling, dark, but immensely beautiful.
A remarkable read reflecting on a man's inner strength. Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
Michael K is a very thin, weak-looking man who is a gardner. As the book opens, he is trying to find a way to get his ill mother to Prince Albert where she was born. They make it halfway there when she unexpectedly passes away in a local hospital. Overwhelmed with grief and no longer in possession of any motivation whatsoever, K roams around aimlessly and becomes something of a homeless man. The story is a bit slow until he gets to Prince Albert. Here he begins a lifestyle of survival and escape, which he repeats numerous times throughout his life, and the reader begins to understand K more as a person. He is a man who is so thin he is often described as a skeleton. Even more importantly, he is mentally asleep. He does not desire human contact, food to eat, or work to occupy his body or mind. He is, strangely, not even interested in being nursed back to health at his lowest moment. "All these years, and still I carry the look of an orphan. Everywhere I go, there are people waiting to exercise their forms of charity on me" K says. And, unlike any other man, he resists this charity and escapes to his own company and the company of his gardens for "I am a gardener...I was mute and stupid in the beginning, I will be mute and stupid in the end. There is nothing to be ashamed of in being simple." Let the book speak for itself. It is a fascinating piece well worth anyone's time.
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