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y separately published work icon Waiting for the Barbarians single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 1980... 1980 Waiting for the Barbarians
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'How do you eradicate contempt, especially when that contempt is founded on nothing more substantial than differences in table manners, variations in the structure of the eyelid? Shall I tell you what I sometimes wish? I wish that these barbarians would rise up and teach us a lesson, so that we would learn to respect them.

After twenty years of peacefully running one of the Empire’s settlements, a magistrate takes pity on an enemy barbarian who has been tortured. He enters into an awkward intimate relationship with her, and then is himself imprisoned as an enemy of the state.

Waiting for the Barbarians is a disturbing political fable about oppression, the fraught desire for reparation, and about living with a troubled conscience under an unjust regime.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Adaptations

Waiting for the Barbarians J. M. Coetzee , 2014 single work screenplay
— Appears in: Two Screenplays 2014;

Notes

  • Dedication:

    For

    Nicolas and Gisela

  • Editions and translations have been updated for Waiting for the Barbarians by Eilish Copelin as part of a Semester 2, 2013 scholar's internship.

    Given the international popularity of Coetzee's work, however, this record is not yet comprehensive. Due to the enormous breadth of critical material on Coetzee's work, indexing of secondary sources is also not complete.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Secker and Warburg ,
      1980 .
      image of person or book cover 7893785118319017050.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 165p.
      Edition info: First ed.
      ISBN: 9780436102950, 0436102951
    • Johannesburg,
      c
      South Africa,
      c
      Southern Africa, Africa,
      :
      Ravan Press ,
      1981 .
      image of person or book cover 951085256385787271.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 156p.
      Edition info: First South African ed.
      ISBN: 0869751999, 9780869751992
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Penguin Books ,
      1982 .
      image of person or book cover 5865336742480447958.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 156p.
      ISBN: 9780140061109, 014006110X
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Penguin Books ,
      1982 .
      image of person or book cover 102837269869752847.png
      This image has been sourced from online.
      ISBN: 0140065555, 9780140065558
      Series: A King Penguin series - publisher
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Vintage UK ,
      1997 .
      image of person or book cover 7867896268277990605.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 156p.
      ISBN: 074939420X, 9780749394202
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Vintage UK ,
      2000 .
      Extent: 169p.
      ISBN: 074939420, 9780749394202
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Vintage UK ,
      2004 .
      image of person or book cover 2746268190520183495.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 169p.
      ISBN: 0099465930, 9780099465935
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Penguin Books ,
      2010 .
      image of person or book cover 1870070903528837175.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 180p.
      ISBN: 0143116924, 9780143116929
      Series: Penguin Ink Series series - publisher
    • Melbourne, Victoria,: Text Publishing , 2019 .
      image of person or book cover 2024612730804307229.jpg
      Cover image courtesy of publisher.
      Extent: 152 p.p.
      Note/s:
      • Published 2 July 2019.
      • Introduction by Sisonke Msimang.
      ISBN: 9781925773866, 9781925774634 (ebook)
Alternative title: En attendant les barbares : roman
Language: French
    • Paris,
      c
      France,
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Editions du Seuil ,
      1987 .
      image of person or book cover 4090257134961232602.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 248p.
      Reprinted: 1991
      ISBN: 2020134039, 9782020134033
    • Paris,
      c
      France,
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Points ,
      2000 .
      image of person or book cover 5888923141142529915.jpg
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 248p.
      ISBN: 2020404567, 9782020404563

Other Formats

  • Braille.
  • Sound recording.

Works about this Work

《等待野蛮人》:一部人类纪环境警示录) Jin Huaimei , 2019 single work criticism
— Appears in: Contemporary Foreign Literature , vol. [2019] no. 4 2019; (p. 119-126)
 In approaching J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, critics have tended to focus on torture and its rich political and ethical connotations, with insufficient attention paid to its environmental concerns. In fact, in the novel, Coetzee not only describes the harsh environment and climate, but also explores the conflicts between human beings and the environment through the imperial army’s strange defeat in the war against its imaginary "barbarian" enemy. Waiting for the Barbarians is therefore an environmental warning for the Anthropocene. One feasible way out of this predicament is the Confucian ecological philosophy, which aims at realizing the harmony between man and nature, emphasizes the solidarity between them, and advocates that human beings, as subjects of virtue, should consciously improve their moral cultivation, respect nature and treat all forms of life with benevolence. (Source: publisher's abstract). 
'A New Footing' : Re-reading the Barbarian Girl in Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians David Attwell , 2019 single work criticism
— Appears in: Reading Coetzee's Women 2019; (p. 55-68)
Type, Personalisation and Depersonalisation in J.M. Coetzee's 'Waiting for the Barbarians' Adrian Grafe , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Commonwealth Essays and Studies , Spring vol. 40 no. 2 2018; (p. 23-32)

''Waiting for the Barbarians' (1980) recounts the rebellion of the Magistrate of an Empire frontier outpost against the torture inflicted on those the Imperial administration which employs him considers as "barbarians." The first-person narration is a strategy enabling the author to personalize the Magistrate whose name he never reveals, above all because through it we are allowed to witness the workings of conscience. The novel is a drama of the opposition between justice and law, and of what happens when men who are supposed to uphold the law in fact neglect justice and abuse their power, themselves becoming worse than "barbarians." Within this complex moral and ethical framework the essay at hand proposes to explore the modalities of personhood as established by Coetzee, and its limits.' (Publication abstract)

The Communion of Clouds : Becoming-Woman in Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians G. A. R. Hamilton , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , February vol. 33 no. 1 2018;

'In her well-read work on contemporary feminist theory titled Nomadic Subjects (2011), Rosi Braidotti gets to grips with the Deleuzian notion of ‘becoming-woman’. Noting that the concept has experienced a good deal of criticism in feminist circles (and from some important feminists too, such as Luce Irigaray), Braidotti argues that there is still something of extreme importance in this concept for the feminist to recover. For Braidotti, ‘becoming-woman’ allows for ‘a nonunitary and multi-layered vision’ of the subject. That is to say, it allows for the description of ‘a dynamic and changing entity’ (5) – one that challenges the striated formulations of ‘woman’ found in phallo- and Euro-centric master codes. Importantly, however, it does so not by posing an essentialised subject position of ‘woman’ for others either to mimic or aspire to (often the grounds for the misreading of the concept), but rather by referencing ‘woman’ as an intensity of sorts, an intensity that is the pre-condition for both revolutionary thought and action (249-250).

'This paper takes the Deleuzian concept of ‘becoming-woman’ and uses it as a way to understand the enigmatic relationship that develops between the Magistrate and the barbarian girl in Coetzee’s early novel, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980). Beginning with a brief characterisation of the barbarian girl as an agent of transformation, this paper goes on to offer an explanation for why the encounter between the Magistrate and the barbarian girl necessarily results in the Magistrate’s turn away from the State.'  (Publication abstract)

'The Coming of the Storm' : Imperial Empiricism and Ecological Indifference in Waiting for the Barbarians Tom Bradstreet , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Ariel , April vol. 48 no. 2 2017; (p. 1-23)
'This article rereads J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians through an ecocritical lens, eschewing a postmodernist interest in a "metaphysics of absence" (Olsen 53) in favour of a materialist engagement with ecological presence. Readings of the novel that cite the absence of the eponymous "barbarians"-and Empire's refusal to acknowledge this absence-as a central feature of the text routinely fail to recognize the presence of ecological forces that ultimately undermine Empire's colonial project. By rectifying this critical oversight, this article's rereading avoids endowing Empire with a problematic surfeit of narrative agency; moreover, it illuminates a relationship between Empire and ecology that cannot be reduced to the simplistic terms of binary difference and is better conceptualised as a dynamic of what I call "ecological indifference." Finally, the article highlights parallels between the myopia of Coetzee's Empire and a brand of critical imperialism that persists in "seeing through" literary ecologies. In this way, Barbarians can be read as a cautionary tale for the Anthropocene.' (Publication abstract)
Hunting Animals in JM Coetzee's Dusklands and Waiting for the Barbarians Paul Williams , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Social Alternatives , vol. 32 no. 4 2013; (p. 15-20)

‘J.M. Coetzee’s early novels Dusklands (1974) and Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) outline the Western imperialist project to colonise and subjugate ‘other’ people, animals and the environment. The masculine colonising subject (in Cartesian terms, res inextensa) has separated itself from the world (res extensa) and seeks to conquer and subjugate in order to subsume it. Dusklands comprises two narratives: one, that of Jacobus Coetzee who hunts human and nonhuman animals and leaves a destructive trail behind him as he blazes a frontier in 1800s South Africa; and two, Eugene Dawn, an American mythographer, who advocates his ‘Vietnam Project’ to win the US war in Vietnam in the early 1970s by defoliating the environment and hunting the Vietcong ‘like animals’. In Waiting for the Barbarians, Colonel Joll deals with the Barbarian ‘threat’ to his Empire by similarly destroying the environment, hunting barbarians, and torturing woman and children. Each character is locked into a Cartesian ‘self’ consciousness that cannot interact with the ‘other’ (female, nonhuman animal, ‘indigenous’) except through violence and destruction. Hunting is a manifestation of this disease and the protagonists make no distinction between human, animal or vegetable in their path of destruction in the name of colonial expansion.' (Publication abstract)

The Gate Deferred : J.M. Coetzee and the Battle Against Doubt Scott Esposito , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 73 no. 3 2013; (p. 90-111)
'Esposito writes of Coetzee's characters (it is not Elizabeth Costello alone) in effect morally naked at the Gate, awaiting admission after - or so they think - the passing of a last judgement, but what is it that is expected of them, and what is this a gate to? (David Brooks, 'Editorial' p. 6)
Teaching Coetzee’s Subject : Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace Stephen Clingman , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Approaches to Teaching Coetzee's Disgrace and Other Works 2014; (p. 59-66)
Open to Interpretation : Politics and Allegory in Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians Robert Spencer , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Approaches to Teaching Coetzee's Disgrace and Other Works 2014; (p. 146-151)
Sven Hedin's “Vanished Country” : Setting and History in J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Hermann Wittenberg , Kate Highman , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Scrutiny2 , vol. 20 no. 1 2015; (p. 103-127)
'Since J.M. Coetzee’s manuscripts, notebooks and miscellaneous other archival materials have become available for study at the Harry Ransom Centre (HRC) in Texas in 2013, it has become possible to shed new light on one of the more enigmatic aspects of Coetzee’s early fictions, namely the origins of the setting and landscape of Waiting for the barbarians. With his previous two novels, Dusklands (1974) and In the heart of the country (1977), Coetzee had established himself as a significant avant-garde South African writer, but the next novel, Barbarians (1980), on the face of it, seemed to veer off-course as an engagement with the historical trauma of his country. When the book was published, readers and critics found Coetzee’s choice of a richly detailed yet seemingly invented non-South African setting both attractive and puzzling. Irvin Howe wrote in the New York times that the novel’s landscape was an “unspecified place and time, yet recognizable as a ‘universalised’ version of South Africa”, and Bernard Levin, in an influential London Sunday times review, thought that the story appeared to indict the repressive South African political situation, “[b] ut that beneath the surface it is timeless, spaceless, nameless and universal” (1980: n.p.). A reviewer in Newsweek thought that Coetzee’s “terrain is African” but that “subtle dislocations in time and geography, however, make it clear that his political parable is set in a mythical realm” (Clemons 1980: 55). Peter Lewis (1980: 1270) also recognized allusions to South Africa, but concluded that “the place cannot be located on any map”. In many critical responses there was a tension between a desire to read the novel as a South African narrative, and a simultaneous recognition of the story’s non-specific emplacement which transcended the political oppression of late apartheid. It was precisely the text’s sense of geographical and historical dislocatedness that made it a compelling reading experience, as for example articulated by Peter Wilhelm: “The strange landscapes, part-African, part a country of the mind; the sense of action and thought scarcely disturbing the flux of time; the crystalline lucidity of the language – these will haunt the reader long after the novel has been set aside” (cited in Kannemeyer 2012: 345). ' (Author's introduction)
Last amended 11 Jun 2020 14:16:57
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