Life & Times of Michael K Library Binding – Jan 1985
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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 --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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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!
Most recent customer reviews
Written at a time that Apartheid was still very strong, Coetzee came up with a philosophical account of life in that environment, which in this case is a surreal post-civil war... Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2014 by Te
From the begining this novel lacked any unpredictability. The main character of the story Michael is definitely a man of reslience but I had a hard time being convinced of this.Published on Nov. 22 2012 by Greygoose
Coetzee is razor-concise as ever, and elegantly combines many ideas into one person. I got a lot from the book's observations of a man in natural seclusion, growing into a purely... Read morePublished on Sept. 14 2003 by A. Patteson
Each sentence uttered by Michael K, the anti-hero of this book, is the voice of sanity, understanding, compassion and truth in a book full of voices of hate and confusion. Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2003
Like a character from Kafka, we never learn Michael K's last name. However, unlike Kafka's characters he chooses a different response to the oppresive society in which he finds... Read morePublished on Sept. 30 2002 by Thomas M. Seay
This book is perhaps the easier to read of Coetzee's but it is nonetheless not easy. This book captures so much of what it is to exist. Read morePublished on July 19 2002 by Joseph L. Soler II
Read this the day after I read "Disgrace." Compelling, beautifully written, and the only book I've ever read to top "Angela's Ashes" in poverty and... Read morePublished on June 28 2002 by KaylingR
This book is only about 180 pages long, so you'd imagine I'd have no trouble finishing it. Unfortunately, no. Read morePublished on May 1 2002 by G M
I read Coetzee's "Disgrace" before I read this and I was instantly hooked on to his style of compassionate and insightful writing. Read morePublished on March 28 2002 by Aanand