“The Childhood of Jesus” is a very sensitive book written by John Maxwell Coetzee, an acclaimed South African writer who recently changed his location to Australia. It is his last book, or at least, it will be until September 21, 2016, when a sequel is scheduled to be published in the United Kingdom. That book’s name is “The Schooldays of Jesus”.
The Childhood of Jesus – Plot
Critics say that it has a lot of biblical references, hence the title. I consider it a fantasy utopia in a socialist or at least a commune society, in a parallel world where only Spanish is spoken. David is a five years old boy who lost his parents in circumstances never explained. He met Simon on a ship which takes them in that Spanish country, where they seem to lose their memories and start quite a clean new life. It is a strange novel, hard to grasp by people who doesn’t know how’s life in a socialist world.
Why Socialist? Because people need work, the hard work was considered honorable and the qualified work, like the one of a doctor, was made with an acute lack of competence. The same with bureaucracy, a lot of incompetent and indifferent clerks are met in this different society where the food was too simple (mostly bread, beans and fruits), it was cheap or free. No restaurants, not too much sex, or if it existed it was soulless. It lacked passion, like people forgot how it was. We are not given too many explanations, on who was who, or what, or why. It starts quite abrupt and continues without too much precious philosophy, it is simple and complex at the same time. I almost couldn’t leave it until the end. I would have finished it in the same day, but it was late when I started to read. It is good and it goes smooth, it’s a very good read, despite that Coetzee’s purist admires consider it too simple or too bland.
I think that it has exactly what one needs to know, without folding the story like others who just fill the pages with abstract nonsense. You remember maybe The Counselor, the movie preciously written by Cormac McCarthy, the acclaimed author of post apocalyptic drama, “The Road”. I have watched the movie, but I haven’t read the book. If Cormac McCarthy writes his novels like he wrote that movie script, I don’t need it. Someone told me that I don’t understand McCarthy’s style: “If you don’t understand the writing style then this movie will be lost to the viewing audience because it is so stylistic and high concept based.”
Believe me, I don’t have the same problem with Mr. Coetzee.
A Few Words about the Author, J.M. Coetzee
J.M. Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940. He is not only a novelist, but also an essayist, a linguist, and a translator. Being the most celebrated modern living author, he must be very good, indeed.
In 2002 he moved to Australia. The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003 was awarded to J. M. Coetzee “who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider”.
He won his first Man Booker Prize in 1983, for “Life & Times of Michael K”. The second one he won in 1999, with “Disgrace”. In 2009, he was shortlisted with “Summertime”, but he lost to Hilary Mantel‘s “Wolfhall”.
J.M. Coetzee Reads from his Book
A rare public apparition at the University of Cape Town, where the author reads from his (new on that time) novel, “The Childhood of Jesus”, sometime in 2013.
I thought Gabriel Garcia Marquez was my favorite writer. I loved Llosa from the first line I have ever read. I love Malcolm Lowry, Mordecai Richler and Haruki Murakami. In style, I love most someone considered a difficult read, the one and only Salman Rushdie. When he writes, he sends you in a thousand places. One has to be really knowledgeable to wholly grasp what he says.
Mr. Coetzee is also one of my favorite authors. I highly recommend his books and this one here, “The Childhood of Jesus”, especially.
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