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y separately published work icon Life & Times of Michael K single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 1974... 1974 Life & Times of Michael K
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

"From the author of Waiting for the Barbarians, another startling and disturbing portrait of today's South Africa, a land and a people beset by violence and siege. Coetzee here tells the story of a handicapped young man who has worked as a municipal gardener in Cape Town. His mother is dying, and she wishes to return to her birthplace out in the veldt. Without the required transit passes, mother and son set out on a journey that will end in death for her and in a new but temporary life on an abandoned farm for him. His respite in isolation and peace does not last long, however; grotesque reality soon returns to trouble this quiet new world. Against the solitude of this private drama, Coetzee paints an eloquent and pained picture of his homeland and of the bureaucrats, doctors, army deserters, and camp guards who reveal the stress and qualms of their existence and who uneasily sense that there is no conclusion to their troubles and no future for their lives." (Source: Libraries Australia)

Notes

  • Epigraph:

    War is the father of all and king of all.

    Some he shows as gods, others as men.

    Some he makes slaves, and others free.

  • Editions and translations have been updated for Life & Times of Michael K by Eilish Copelin as part of a Semester 2, 2013 scholar's internship. The selection and inclusion of these editions and translations was based on their availability through Australian libraries, namely through the search facilities of Libraries Australia and Trove (National Library of Australia).

    Given the international popularity of Coetzee's work, however, this record is not yet comprehensive. Editions and translations not widely available in Australia may not have been indexed. Furthermore, due to the enormous breadth of critical material on Coetzee's work, indexing of secondary sources is also not complete.

  • Other formats: Also sound recording and large print.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Johannesburg,
      c
      South Africa,
      c
      Southern Africa, Africa,
      :
      Ravan Press ,
      1974 .
      Note/s:
      • Bibliographic details for this edition taken from verso of title page of Vintage 1998 edition. This item not sighted.
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Secker and Warburg ,
      1983 .
      image of person or book cover 8028643355669840392.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 249p.
      ISBN: 0436102978
    • Johannesburg,
      c
      South Africa,
      c
      Southern Africa, Africa,
      :
      Ravan Press ,
      1983 .
      image of person or book cover 3086188075088490934.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 250p.
      ISBN: 086975159X, 9780869751596
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Viking ,
      1984 .
      image of person or book cover 6112879070956022309.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 184p.
      ISBN: 0670427896
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Penguin USA ,
      1985 .
      image of person or book cover 8348654539797939402.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 184p.
      ISBN: 0140074481
    • Harmondsworth, Middlesex,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Penguin Books ,
      1985 .
      image of person or book cover 3580491520678650668.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 249p.
      ISBN: 0140074481, 0140071156
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Vintage ,
      1998 .
      image of person or book cover 7685132027501352950.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 184p.
      Reprinted: 2004
      ISBN: 0099268345
Alternative title: Historien om Michael K
Transliterated title: The story of Michael K
Language: Danish
    • Copenhagen,
      c
      Denmark,
      c
      Scandinavia, Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Hekla ,
      1984 .
      image of person or book cover 2719861906707068993.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 215p.
      Edition info: 1st ed.
      ISBN: 8774741225, 9788774741220

Works about this Work

Eurydice’s Curse : J. M. Coetzee and the Prospect of Death Chris Danta , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , February vol. 33 no. 1 2018;

'The prospect of death is one of J. M. Coetzee’s central and enduring concerns. As David Attwell observes in his biography, ‘The most trenchant of the purposes of Coetzee’s metafiction . . . is that it is a means whereby he challenges himself with sharply existential questions’. My claim in this essay is that Coetzee uses the act of writing existentially to orient himself and his readers to the prospect of death. I argue that Coetzee treats the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a story about how to deal with the prospect of death. What seems to terrify the Coetzeean protagonist is the thought of the absolute solitariness of death. I call this the curse of Eurydice. Eurydice’s fate in the myth is to be left alone in the Underworld, dying for a second time after her impatient lover turns to gaze at her before they have safely reached the surface of the earth. To take Eurydice’s point of view in the story is to begin to glimpse the solitariness of death. One of the roles of women in Coetzee’s fiction, I suggest, is to mitigate the male character’s fear of this solitariness by conducting him to the threshold of death, but no further.'  (Publication abstract)

From Dissensus to Inoperativity : The Strange Case of J. M. Coetzee’s Michael K Daniele Monticelli , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: English Studies , vol. 97 no. 6 2016; (p. 618-637)
'This article develops a comprehensive reading of Life & Times of Michael K, one of J. M. Coetzee’s most controversial novels, which has provoked strong feelings and an intense debate among critics since its publication in 1983. Scholarly works on the novel have tended to explore the ethical dilemma raised by the enigmatic life of the protagonist and his apparent unrelatedness with its “times”, focusing on the issues of absolute alterity and its (un)representability, while denying any political import to the novel. These interpretations draw on a conformist understanding of politics that transforms the social outsideness of Michael K into his political irrelevance. The argument developed in this article takes instead the reconceptualizations of (emancipatory) politics by Jacques Rancière and Giorgio Agamben as a basis for a thorough political reading of Michael’s outsideness. The notions of “dissensus” and “inoperativity” help to disclose, behind Michael’s apparently unpretentious life, a complex strategy aimed at maintaining his distance from power, while keeping power itself at a distance.' (Publication abstract)
Who’s Appropriating Whose Voice in Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K? Patricia Merivale , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Approaches to Teaching Coetzee's Disgrace and Other Works 2014; (p. 152-159)
Who’s Appropriating Whose Voice in Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K? Patricia Merivale , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Approaches to Teaching Coetzee's Disgrace and Other Works 2014; (p. 152-159)
From Dissensus to Inoperativity : The Strange Case of J. M. Coetzee’s Michael K Daniele Monticelli , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: English Studies , vol. 97 no. 6 2016; (p. 618-637)
'This article develops a comprehensive reading of Life & Times of Michael K, one of J. M. Coetzee’s most controversial novels, which has provoked strong feelings and an intense debate among critics since its publication in 1983. Scholarly works on the novel have tended to explore the ethical dilemma raised by the enigmatic life of the protagonist and his apparent unrelatedness with its “times”, focusing on the issues of absolute alterity and its (un)representability, while denying any political import to the novel. These interpretations draw on a conformist understanding of politics that transforms the social outsideness of Michael K into his political irrelevance. The argument developed in this article takes instead the reconceptualizations of (emancipatory) politics by Jacques Rancière and Giorgio Agamben as a basis for a thorough political reading of Michael’s outsideness. The notions of “dissensus” and “inoperativity” help to disclose, behind Michael’s apparently unpretentious life, a complex strategy aimed at maintaining his distance from power, while keeping power itself at a distance.' (Publication abstract)
Eurydice’s Curse : J. M. Coetzee and the Prospect of Death Chris Danta , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , February vol. 33 no. 1 2018;

'The prospect of death is one of J. M. Coetzee’s central and enduring concerns. As David Attwell observes in his biography, ‘The most trenchant of the purposes of Coetzee’s metafiction . . . is that it is a means whereby he challenges himself with sharply existential questions’. My claim in this essay is that Coetzee uses the act of writing existentially to orient himself and his readers to the prospect of death. I argue that Coetzee treats the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a story about how to deal with the prospect of death. What seems to terrify the Coetzeean protagonist is the thought of the absolute solitariness of death. I call this the curse of Eurydice. Eurydice’s fate in the myth is to be left alone in the Underworld, dying for a second time after her impatient lover turns to gaze at her before they have safely reached the surface of the earth. To take Eurydice’s point of view in the story is to begin to glimpse the solitariness of death. One of the roles of women in Coetzee’s fiction, I suggest, is to mitigate the male character’s fear of this solitariness by conducting him to the threshold of death, but no further.'  (Publication abstract)

Awards

Last amended 15 Apr 2016 16:19:05
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