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Friday, October 28, 2005

Mishra Reviews Slow Man

Pankaj Mishra reviews J.M. Coetzee's Slow Man for The Nation, starting with the now obligatory reference to V.S. Naipaul and his thoughts on the end of the novel. Paradoxically, this sentiment -- of the novel being a dying form -- is what permeates Mishra's appreciative review: "Coetzee seems too conscious that the novel is mostly formula, and that its characters acquire meaning and depth only to the extent that the writer invokes the social and political prejudices he shares with his readers. His recent works express a dignified refusal to play the usual game. Indeed, much of their interest arises not so much from losing oneself in Coetzee's delineations of character and plot as in observing what this extremely intelligent and superbly self-aware artist does to his creations.

In conclusion, "the novel will live, even flourish, at least in the West, and novelists will continue to pretend to be seers as they meet the general book-buyer's demand for entertainment and instruction. But Coetzee may turn out to be one of the last great novelists, exalted by the intensity of his self-awareness and his willingness to make his home in a spiritual and intellectual impasse of which few of his contemporaries were even aware."


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