Issue Details: First known date: 2015 2015
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Boyhood (1997), like Youth (2002), is J.M. Coetzee’s fictionalised ‘autobiography’. In this work, Coetzee – in a novelistic fashion – uses third-person narration and present tense to trace the development of his protagonist, John Coetzee, from boyhood to youth and question the formative impact of such years on the protagonist’s identity. The relationship between Coetzee the writer and Coetzee the character in the autobiographical memoirs is one of psychological doubling or mirroring. Therefore, and to borrow the title of Coetzee’s 2003 Nobel lecture, ‘he and his man’ are paired in a problematically intricate relationship evading, yet inviting, parallels. In his memoirs, Coetzee takes us through his protagonist’s school years in Worcester and Cape Town in South Africa, family upbringing, religious and political anxieties, social hesitations, and university years in Cape Town. Moreover, Coetzee traces his protagonist’s life in London as a computer programmer, attempts at writing poetry and reading literature, attempts at researching the works of the English novelist Ford Maddox Ford, and failed love affairs. In Boyhood, we see Coetzee’s boy as a school student between the ages of 10 and 13, struggling against his mother’s influence and her stifling love and internalising the shame and guilt of his family’s racist prejudice. The use of the third person to recount life details – with possible modifications to effect a middle ground between fiction and the search for self inherent in autobiographical writing – means using paradoxical styles. The term literary theorists use in this regard to describe this form of fictionalised autobiographies is ‘autofiction’. The term was coined in 1977 by French writer and critic Serge Doubrovsky with reference to his novel Fils. Recently, this term has been used by critics like Karen Ferreira-Meyers to indicate the blurring of boundaries between fact and fiction in texts. I suggest in this article that Coetzee's fictionalised memoirs can be called ‘autofiction’ just as his novels can be seen as somewhat autobiographical. Applied broadly, the term ‘autofiction’ can be used as a label for such genres, autobiographical novels and fictionalised autobiographies or memoirs, in the case of Coetzee. Although the term ‘autofiction’ is better applied to fictionalised or autobiographical memoirs,Coetzee’s fictions treating autobiographical themes also partake in this genre, though to a lesser extent.' (Author's introduction)

Notes

  • Epigraph: How are they to be figured, this man and he? As master and slave? As brothers, twin brothers? As comrades in arms? Or as enemies, foes? What name shall he give this nameless fellow with whom he shares his evenings and sometimes his nights too, who is absent only in the daytime, when he, Robin, walks the quays inspecting the new arrivals and his man gallops about the kingdom making his inspections?

    J.M. Coetzee, ‘He and His Man’

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y Transnational Literature Philosophy and Literature; Philosophy as Literature vol. 7 no. 2 May 2015 8553616 2015 periodical issue 2015
Last amended 13 May 2015 09:38:13
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