J.M. Coetzee: a life in writing is the first biography of Nobel prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee. A global publishing event of the rarest kind, the book has been written with the full co-operation of Coetzee, who granted the author interviews, and put him in touch with family, friends, and colleagues who could talk about events in Coetzee’s life.
For the first time, Coetzee allowed complete access to his private papers and documents, including the manuscripts of his sixteen novels. J.C. Kannemeyer has also made a study of the enormous body of literature on Coetzee, and through archival research has unearthed further information not previously available.
The books deals in depth with Coetzee’s origins, early years, and first writings; his British interlude from 1962–65; his time in America from 1965–71; his 30 years back in South Africa, when he achieved international recognition and won the Booker prize; and his Australian years since 2002, during which time he won the Nobel Prize.
J.M. Coetzee: a life in writing is a major work that corrects many of the misconceptions about Coetzee, and that illuminates the genesis and implications of his novels. This magisterial biography will be an indispensable source for everybody concerned with Coetzee’s life and work.
‘What makes great novels are great writers. The Coetzee-as-writer presented here is possibly the essence of the man.’
Susan Johnson, Courier Mail
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‘J.M. Coetzee — A Life in Writing is a tome of serious scholarship, meticulously researched, and mammoth in scale, yet eminently readable and, in parts, utterly absorbing … It is a masterly tome that certainly lends greater understanding for anyone intending to read their way through Coetzee’s entire oeuvre and will, without question, be the starting point for all such biographies to come.’
Billy O'Callaghan, Irish Examiner
‘There is no more sympathetic chronicler of Coetzee's life, at least so far, than Kannemeyer. And there is arguably no greater source of knowledge and information on this famed author than that provided in this magnificent volume.’
MARTIN STEVENSON, Launceston Examiner
‘A valuable document ... Throughout this biography, Coetzee’s work, his letters and lectures are quoted extensively and the classicism of his writing is evident in every sentence. Wisely, Kannemeyer does not try to compete. Instead, he suggests that what Coetzee wrote of Beckett might well be applied to Coetzee himself: “Beckett was an artist possessed by a vision of life without consolation or dignity or promise of grace, in the face of which our only duty — inexplicable and futile of attainment, but a duty nonetheless — is not to lie to ourselves.” That’s why he matters.’
David Sexton, London Evening Standard
‘[An] adroit blend of biography, history, interview and literary criticism – as well as the journey of the subject himself – make for a fascinating study.’
Julia Tulloh, Readings
‘[Kannemeyer's] account of Coetzee’s life ... is an impressive feat of scholarship that will prove indispensable to anyone who wishes to understand the historical and political context of Coetzee’s work’
James Ley, Sydney Review of Books
‘In the astonishingly short space of three years, Kannemeyer wrote this revealing and thorough volume … Coetzee's fame and his reclusiveness guarantee the book will attract enormous interest … This important biography … sheds more light on a great writer than anything that has appeared previously.’
Peter Alexander, The Age
'A scrupulously researched read. Unless Coetzee turns out to be another P.G. Wodehouse still writing and publishing new books into his nineties, this will almost certainly remain more or less the definitive read and work of reference for him.'
The Book Bag
‘This book deserves a medal for bravery ... in scrutinising Coetzee's manuscripts [Kannemeyer] excels.’
Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times
‘Kannemeyer properly dedicates a generous portion of the biography to accounts of the genesis, composition, publication and reception of Coetzee's fictions ... For the most part, the biographer's careful scholarship and efforts at inclusiveness are welcome.’
Geordie Williamson, Weekend Australian