John Maxwell Coetzee, born in Cape Town in 1940, is a renowned South African novelist of Boer and English decent and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in literature.

Taking off as a computer programmer

After graduating in South Africa, Coetzee moved to England in the 1960’s, working there – curiously enough – as a computer programmer. From England he went on to the University of Texas, Austin, where he received a Ph D in literature in 1972. He immediately got a teaching position at the New York University and taught literature there until 1983. Later he has been teaching literature at various universities in the US and South Africa and has lived for a while in Australia.

J. M. Coetzee’s first, moderately successful book, “Dusklands”, was published in 1974. But already in 1980 he made a name for himself as an important author with the novel “Waiting for the barbarians”, which won the highest literary prize in South Africa, the Central News Agency Literary Prize.

A torrent of prizes

Since then J. M. Coetzee has received an almost never-ending series of literary prizes. His first Booker Prize was awarded in 1983 for “The Life And Times Of Michael K”. When Coetzee received the Booker Prize in 1999 for his novel “Disgrace”, he set a record of sorts -– he became the first author ever to have received the prestigious Booker Prize twice. His 2003 Nobel Prize in literature crowns the career of a prolific and internationally acclaimed author.

Transcending politics

The theme of J. M. Coetzee’s books frequently centers on South African politics and the specter of apartheid. But he succeeds in carrying such considerations to a more universal level, transcending the provincial setting and the political specifics.

J. M. Coetzee’s works in English:

  • Dusklands : (two novellas). – Johannesburg : Ravan Press, 1974.
  • In the Heart of the Country : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1977.
  • Waiting for the Barbarians : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1980
  • Life and Times of Michael K : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1983
  • Foe : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1986
  • White Writing : on the Culture of Letters in South Africa. – New Haven : Yale Univ. Press, 1988
  • Age of Iron : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1990
  • Doubling the Point : Essays and Interviews. – Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard Univ. Press, 1992
  • The Master of Petersburg : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1994
  • Giving Offense : Essays on Censorship. – Chicago : Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996
  • Boyhood : Scenes from Provincial Life. – London : Secker & Warburg, 1997
  • What is Realism? – Bennington, Vt. : Bennington College, 1997
  • Disgrace : (novel). – London : Secker & Warburg, 1999
  • The Lives of Animals / edited and introduced by Amy Gutmann. – Princeton : Princeton Univ. Press, 1999
  • The Humanities in Africa = Die Geisteswissenschaften in Afrika. – München : Carl Friedrich von Siemens-Stiftung, 2001
  • Stranger Shores : Essays, 1986–1999. – London : Secker & Warburg, 2001
  • Youth. – London : Secker & Warburg, 2002
  • Elizabeth Costello : Eight Lessons. – London : Secker & Warburg, 2003


Swedish Academy:
The New York Review of Books:,5917,-43,00.html

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