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J. M. Coetzee J. M. Coetzee i(A65182 works by) (a.k.a. John Maxwell Coetzee)
Born: Established: 1940 Cape Town,
South Africa,
Southern Africa, Africa,
Gender: Male
Arrived in Australia: 2002
Heritage: South African ; Afrikaan
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J. M. Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa on 9 February 1940 to Afrikaner parents. He graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1960 and 1961 with degrees in English and mathematics respectively. He moved to London where he worked as a computer programmer from 1962 to 1965. Here, in 1963, he was awarded a Master of Arts for his thesis on the English novelist, Ford Madox Ford. Coetzee received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1965 and pursued a PhD in English, linguistics, and Germanic languages at the University of Texas, where he wrote his dissertation on the early fiction of Samuel Beckett. He took up a teaching position at the State University of New York from 1968 to 1971, but was denied permanent residency in the United States because of his involvement in anti-Vietnam-War protests. It was here that Coetzee began writing fiction in 1969, after abandoning ambitions to become a poet.

Coetzee returned to South Africa in 1972 and primarily lived there between then and 2000, where he taught English Literature at the University of Cape Town and became a Distinguished Professor of Literature in 1999. Between 1984 and 2003, he also had teaching stints at the State University of New York, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. His first novel, Dusklands, was published in Johannesburg in 1974. He quickly gained recognition in 1977 with his next novel, In the Heart of the Country, winning the South African CNA Literary Award and was published in Britain and the USA. Coetzee was the first writer to win the Booker Prize twice – first for Life & Times of Michael K in 1983, and again for Disgrace in 1999. Among many other awards, he has won the CNA Literary Award three times, for Life & Times of Michael K, In the Heart of the Country, and Waiting for the Barbarians. Coetzee was also awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society in 1987, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. The South African government presented him with an Order of Mapungubwe (Gold Class) on 27 September 2005 for his “exceptional contribution in the field of literature and for putting South Africa on the world stage” (“National Orders Awards”). Coetzee has been described as “inarguably the most celebrated and decorated living English language author” (Poplak).

In 2002, Coetzee moved to Adelaide as a permanent resident, taking up an honorary research fellow position with the English Department at the University of Adelaide. There is now a J. M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice at the University of Adelaide, whose head is the writer and academic Brian Castro

Coetzee had first visited the country in 1990 as a guest the University of Queensland, and again in 1996 when he attended Adelaide Writers’ Week. He became an Australian citizen on 6 March 2006, at a special ceremony hosted by then Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone at the Adelaide Writers’ Week. Coetzee’s move was popularly thought to be a rejection of South Africa, after the African National Congress denounced Disgrace as racist for its depiction of a gang rape of a white woman by black men. However, in his speech at the citizenship ceremony, Coetzee said “I didn't so much leave South Africa — a country with which I retain strong emotional ties — as come to Australia." (Debelle). Coetzee continues to live in the Adelaide foothills with his partner, South-African born Dorothy Driver, who is a Professor of English at the University of Adelaide and Emerita Professor at the University of Cape Town.

Since his emigration to Australia, Coetzee “has moved away from naturalistic, storytelling fiction towards other forms - essays, polemic and memoir, or a composite of all three in a fictional framework” (Meek). Despite the blurring of fiction and autobiography in his recent work, Coetzee refuses to clarify these divisions. Despite his notorious reclusiveness, he is also an outspoken advocate for animal rights and for civil liberties. In Sydney on 22 February 2007, Hugo Weaving delivered a speech on Coetzee’s behalf condemning the animal husbandry industry for the animal rights not-for-profit organisation, Voiceless. Aspects of this speech paralleled the one given by his character Elizabeth Costello in Coetzee’s novel of the same name. As well as writing fiction, Coetzee translates Dutch and Afrikaans literature, and is a prolific essayist and literary critic. His significant collections are White Writing (1988), Doubling the Point (1992), Giving Offense (1996), and Stranger Shores (2001). The first official biography of Coetzee was written in Afrikaans by South African academic J.C. Kannemeyer with the full cooperation of the author, and published in 2011 as J M Coetzee : A Life in Writing.



Most Referenced Works


  • The AustLit records relating to J.M. Coetzee's publication record was expanded as part of a student internship in Semester 1, 2013 by Eilish Copelin. This work laid the foundation for further work undertaken in 2014 and 2015. While considerable additional work has been undertaken to further develop the record, we recognise that AustLit's coverage of some translations, and especially secondary works published in international journals, is not complete. This level of bibliographical indexing is unusual; however, this work was undertaken as a part of a special project.

    We would welcome receiving further publication details. Please contact us.

    We are grateful to Professor Breon Mitchell from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA for assistance in updating and expanding the bibliographical record of Coetzee's novels.

Personal Awards

2010 Royal Civilian Order of the Netherlands Order of the Dutch Lion In recognition of recognition of J.M. Coetzee's efforts to promote Dutch literature and poetry.
2004 recipient Australian Academy of the Humanities Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities
2003 Nobel Prize in Literature 'who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider' -- The Swedish Academy citation, 2 October 2003.

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon The Death of Jesus Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2019 17064224 2019 single work novel

'AFTER The Childhood of Jesus and The Schooldays of Jesus, J. M. Coetzee completes his trilogy with a new masterwork, The Death of Jesus.

'David loves to kick a soccer ball with his friends in Estrella. His father, Simón, and Bolívar the dog usually watch. His mother, Inés, works in a fashion boutique.

'David still asks lots of questions. In dancing class, he dances as he chooses. He refuses to do sums and the only book he will read is Don Quixote.

'One day, Julio Fabricante, the director of a nearby orphanage, invites David and his friends to form a proper soccer team. David decides to leave Simón and Inés and live with Julio. Before long he succumbs to a mysterious illness. Will he have time to deliver his ‘message’?

'In The Death of Jesus, J. M. Coetzee continues to explore the meaning of a world brimming with questions.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2020 shortlisted Prime Minister's Literary Awards Fiction
y separately published work icon The Schooldays of Jesus Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2016 9704550 2016 single work single work novel

'When you travel across the ocean on a boat, all your memories are washed away and you start a completely new life. That is how it is. There is no before. There is no history. The boat docks at the harbour and we climb down the gangplank and we are plunged into the here and now. Time begins.'

'David is the small boy who is always asking questions. Simón and Inés take care of him in their new country. He is learning the language; he has begun to make friends. He has the big dog Bolívar to watch over him. But he’ll be seven soon. He should be at school. And so David is enrolled in the Academy of Dance in Estrella. It’s here, in his new golden dancing slippers, that he learns how to call down the numbers from the sky. But it’s here too that he will make troubling discoveries about what grown-ups are capable of.'

'The Schooldays of Jesus, the startling sequel to J. M. Coetzee’s widely praised The Childhood of Jesus, will beguile its readers. With the mysterious simplicity of a fable, it tells a story that raises the most direct questions about life itself.' (Source: Text Publishing website)

y separately published work icon Three Stories Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2014 7721999 2014 selected work short story

'As he gets older he finds himself growing more and more crabby about language, about slack usage, falling standards. Falling in love, for instance. 'We fell in love with the house', friends of his say. How can you fall in love with a house when the house cannot love you back, he wants to reply? Once you start falling in love with objects, what will be left of real love, love as it used to be? But no one seems to care. People fall in love with tapestries, with old cars.

'A man contemplates his deep connection to a house.

'The unfathomable idea of threshing wheat points to a life lost.

'And a writer ponders the creation of his narrator.' (Publication summary)

2015 shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award
Last amended 14 Nov 2017 15:42:03
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