Friday, October 10, 2003

Coetzee

I've been reading Coetzee, the writer who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature (or something). Not having read many works of literature I feel distinctly ill-equipped to write about them when I do read them, but Coetzee is a writer, rather like Kapuscinski - but for different reasons - that I would quite happily read endlessly. He is not flashy, like my first love Julie Burchill whose writing crackles with the crunch of a hundred wraps of amphetamine. He does not draw any particular attention to the writing, but he conjures something distinctly ineffable, a kind of music, out of the words, and it is not at all clear how he does this. (This would be the meaning of conjure, but I'll make the point twice anyway). His words seem to come out of a peacefulness, slightly reminiscent of the peace that the Hindus claim, somewhat against the odds, is our true self. He tells his stories economically. You could often almost forget about him, which is the true art of the writer, I guess, and diametrically opposed to the self-absorbed hacks that I have got so used to reading. Perhaps to Coetzee the reader is more important than the writer. It is a refreshing sensation to have someone's skill used for your benefit, instead of their self-aggrandisement; nothing is greater than the great being humble, and Coetzee is both great and humble.

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