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Life & Times of Michael K de J.M. Coetzee
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Life & Times of Michael K (1983 original; edició 2004)

de J.M. Coetzee

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
2,674644,737 (3.81)239
In a South Africa torn by civil war, Michael K sets out to take his mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. Life and Times of Michael K goes to the centre of human experience - the need for an interior, spiritual life, for some connections to the world in which we live, and for purity of vision. 'This is a truly astonishing novel... I finished Life & Times of Michael K in a state of elation, for all the misery and suffering it contains. I cannot recommend it highly enough' Evening Standard… (més)
Membre:MaunoV
Títol:Life & Times of Michael K
Autors:J.M. Coetzee
Informació:Vintage, Paperback, 192 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:***
Etiquetes:Cap

Informació de l'obra

Vida i època de Michael K de J. M. Coetzee (1983)

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» Mira també 239 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 64 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Michael K thinks his life and his mother’s will be better if they can leave their unnamed South African city for the rural town that was his mother’s childhood home. He was wrong, as his situation goes from bad to worse. Michael K wants only to be left alone to live off the land, but he can’t escape notice from warring factions. It doesn’t seem to matter which side will come out on top, as neither side has anything to offer Michael. This novel explores questions of social marginality and human existence in a way that reminded me somewhat of The Grapes of Wrath. Both novels left me with a similar feeling of desolation. ( )
  cbl_tn | Sep 30, 2022 |
They want me to open my heart and tell them the story of a
life lived in cages. They want to hear about all the cages
I have lived in, as if I were a budgie or a
white mouse or a monkey.


In the days of apartheid in Capetown, South Africa, Coetzee gives us the story of Michael K, a bullied, downtrodden young man, who finds himself in the middle of a civil war he does not understand. His mother, who is dying, wants to return to her home in Prince Albert, and Michael rigs a cart and sets out to take her there, navigating his way through checkpoints and troops without the necessary papers. The mother dies en route, but that is just the beginning of Michael’s struggles to survive in a society that makes no sense and will not allow anyone of Michael’s ilk to live a simple or happy life.

This is a story of isolation and loneliness. Michael becomes so much the secluded individual that he loses any desire or ability to co-exist with other people. The dangers are innumerable and unidentifiable. They come from both sides of the conflict, and no one is likely to be allowed to exist without choosing a side, but Michael is slow and naive, almost childlike, and he cannot even understand the dynamics of the conflict. Even the kind people he encounters befuddle him.

As we begin to wonder if any individual has purpose in such a society, Michael also grapples with what his existence means, and Coetzee asks the question in captivating prose:

Every grain of this earth will be washed clean by the rain, he told himself, and dried by the sun and scoured by the wind, before the seasons turn again. There will be not a grain left bearing my marks, just as my mother has now, after her season in the earth, been washed clean, blown about, and drawn up into the leaves of grass.

A little more than halfway through the novel, Coetzee switches from the story we have been seeing exclusively in a third person voice from Michael’s viewpoint, to a first person voice of a medical officer tasked with Michael’s care in an internment camp. It seems to me that Coetzee wished to show us the human face of the opposition and demonstrate how difficult it would be to separate the players into strictly good and evil camps. This doctor is struggling, as well, with making sense of the system he serves.

I wanted to say, “you ask why you are important Michaels. The answer is that you are not important. But that does not mean you are forgotten. No one is forgotten. Remember the sparrows. Five sparrows are sold for a farthing, and even they are not forgotten.”

I felt acutely the helplessness of Michael’s situation and the attempt at self-preservation that takes the form of self-destruction. Michael rejects any interaction with society, either those who share his position or those who claim authority over him. While we are never told that Michael is black, or for that matter that the doctor or soldiers are white, we instinctively know this to be so. Michael’s deformity that is the source of ridicule and derision, we are told, is his harelip that he has had from birth, but it is clear to me that we are meant to see that it is in truth his color, his class, his position in society that are his handicaps, and just like his physical deformity, they are not of his making or in his control. I found it interesting that more than one character in the novel asks if any attempt was ever made to correct Michael’s deformity, and when told “no”, they each remark how easily the correction could have been made.

Profound writing. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
What an agile author, able to describe pretty mundane things so that I was turning pages to get to the next scene. ( )
  ebethe | Jun 15, 2021 |
Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee (1983) is an oddly moving little book about an oddly moving little man. Michael K is an unlikely protagonist. The book begins with his mother’s revulsion at the cleft lip he is born with. Michael spends his school years in an institution, visited by his mother, then becomes a gardener. He cares for his sickly mother until the growing social unrest in their city of Cape Town, South Africa, threatens to take away both their jobs. After a riot in their neighborhood, she persuades him to take her to the countryside where she grew up, but she dies before they arrive.

At this point, Michael is cut loose. The first two-thirds of the book is the oddly clinical chronicling of his long and lonely path. He is picked up as a vagrant and spends time in a camp where he is told he is not a prisoner, but that he will be shot if he tries to leave. He eventually finds the farm where he thinks his mother lived, and secretly plants a pumpkin patch, living like an animal in a burrow, before he is picked up and sent back to camp. Michael wonders why he must do as he is told, but never seems to get emotional. He simply leaves when he can.

Part two starts out clinically as well, as it is told from the point of view of a medic in Michael’s last camp. However, this man becomes moved by Michael’s case, almost in awe of the quiet man’s unreachability, and dreams of following him back to the country when Michael escapes yet again. He even starts addressing his musings directly to Michael:

You have never asked for anything, yet you have become an albatross around my neck. Your bony arms are knotted behind my head, I walk bowed under the weight of you.

I take this to mean that the white colonists have created a huge burden for themselves by taking away the natives’ freedom; each man comes to represent his race. However, one of the remarkable things about Michael K is that Coetzee never once describes a person as black, white, or colored. I can only assume that Michael is black or colored, and that the medic is white. Finally, the very brief part three finds Michael back in Cape Town, and willing to tell his story to other people surviving by their wits, away from the camps.

I am reminded of several other works: first, the South African setting reminds me of Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist, also about race, and farming. Michael’s last initial, K, as well as the thoughtless bureaucracy that labels this harmless gardener as an arsonist and guerilla, makes me think of Kafka’s The Trial. Finally, the life-or-death bleakness of Michael’s travels through a war-torn landscape reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Like The Road, this novel is moving without being sentimental. I look forward to reading Nobel prizewinner Coetzee’s next Booker winner, Disgrace (1999).
( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
The story began as a dramatic dystopian tale of danger and desperation but transitioned into a nightmarish tale of imprisonment and lassitude. A bleak, depressing story of Michael’s fight for freedom and identity. ( )
  Misprint | Aug 31, 2020 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 64 (següent | mostra-les totes)
But in spite of such pleasures, I have serious doubts. My main concern is Michael K himself. He's more of a plot device than a real man, and we are constantly reminded how simple Michael is, and how little he understands .
afegit per Nickelini | editaThe Guardian, Sam Jordison (Jun 16, 2009)
 
And so J.M. Coetzee has written a marvelous work that leaves nothing unsaid—and could not be better said—about what human beings do to fellow human beings in South Africa; but he does not recognize what the victims, seeing themselves as victims no longer, have done, are doing, and believe they must do for themselves. Does this prevent his from being a great novel? My instinct is to say a vehement "No." But the organicism that George Lukács defines as the integral relation between private and social destiny is distorted here more than is allowed for by the subjectivity that is in every writer. The exclusion is a central one that may eat out the heart of the work's unity of art and life.
afegit per jburlinson | editaNew York Review of Books, Nadine Gordimer (Web de pagament) (Feb 2, 1984)
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
J. M. Coetzeeautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Aguiar, João Baptista da CostaDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Baiocchi, MariaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
BascoveAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Bergsma, PeterTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Brunse, NielsTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Dominik, PavelTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Fernandes, RicardoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Forsberg, PiaDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Giachino, EnzoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Greiff, AudTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Konikowska, MagdalenaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Loponen, SeppoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Manella, ConchaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Mayoux, SophieTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Preis, ThomasTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Ross, KárolyTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Siqueira, José RubensTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Stoepman gvn, FritsDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Teichmann, WulfÜbersetzerautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Udina, DolorsTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Бужаровска… РуменаTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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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.
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The first thing the midwife noticed about Michael K when she helped him out of his mother into the world was that he had a hare lip.
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He fetched the box of ashes from the house, set it in the middle of the rectangle, and say down to wait. He did not know what he expected; whatever it was, it did not happen. A beetle scurried across the ground. The wind blew. There was a cardboard box standing in the sunlight on a patch of baked mud, nothing more. There was another step, apparently, that he had to take but could not yet imagine.
Twelve men eat six bags of potatoes. Each bag holds six kilograms of potatoes. What is the quotient. He saw himself write down 12, he saw himself write down 6. He did not know what to do with the numbers. He crossed both out. He stared at the word quotient. It did not change, it did not dissolve, it did not yield its mystery. I will die, he thought, still not knowing what the quotient is.
He is like a stone, a pebble that, having lain around quietly minding its own business since the dawn of time, is now suddenly picked up and tossed randomly from hand to hand. He passes through these institutions and camps and hospitals and God knows what else like a stone. Through the intestines of the war. An unbearing, unborn creature. I cannot really think of him as a man…
[Your stay in the camp] was an allegory – speaking at the highest level – of how scandalously, how outrageously a meaning can take up residence in a system without becoming a term in it.
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

In a South Africa torn by civil war, Michael K sets out to take his mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. Life and Times of Michael K goes to the centre of human experience - the need for an interior, spiritual life, for some connections to the world in which we live, and for purity of vision. 'This is a truly astonishing novel... I finished Life & Times of Michael K in a state of elation, for all the misery and suffering it contains. I cannot recommend it highly enough' Evening Standard

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