Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee

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In 1982, J. M. Coetzee dazzled the literary world with the now classic Waiting for the Barbarians. Five novels and two Booker prizes later, Coetzee is a writer of international stature and a novelist whose publication of a new work is heralded as a literary event. Now, in his first work of fiction since The New York Times bestselling Disgrace, he has crafted an unusual and deeply affecting tale.

Elizabeth Costello is a distinguished and aging Australian novelist whose life is revealed through an ingenious series of eight formal addresses. From an award-acceptance speech at a New England liberal arts college to a lecture on evil in Amsterdam and a sexually charged reading by the poet Robert Duncan, Coetzee draws the reader inexorably toward its astonishing conclusion.

Vividly imagined and masterfully wrought in his unerring prose, Elizabeth Costello is, on its surface, the story of a woman's life as mother, sister, lover, and writer. Yet it is also a profound and haunting meditation on the nature of storytelling that only a writer of Coetzee's caliber could accomplish.

About J. M. Coetzee

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J. M. Coetzee has won many literary awards, including three CNA prizes (South Africa's premier literary award), two Booker prizes, the Prix Etranger Femina, the Jerusalem Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. He lives in Australia.
Published January 1, 2003 by Secker & Warburg. 224 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Elizabeth Costello

The Guardian

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But when an acclaimed novelist offers his public a book with an invented protagonist which seems more like a series of essays or lectures than an actual work of fiction, as JM Coetzee has done with Elizabeth Costello, he is crossing more lines than Grieg or Vaughan Williams ever did.

Sep 13 2003 | Read Full Review of Elizabeth Costello

The Guardian

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by analogy, we persecute animals by dint of not imagining ourselves into their lives, even though "an animal - and we are all animals - is an embodied soul".

Aug 29 2003 | Read Full Review of Elizabeth Costello

Book Reporter

The point is that Costello's ideas are not always sound --- her.

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Elizabeth Costello

AV Club

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It may look like a novel and follow the same character from beginning to end, but Elizabeth Costello, J.M.

Nov 04 2003 | Read Full Review of Elizabeth Costello

Entertainment Weekly

While this is clearly intended -- she compares society's treatment of animals to the Nazi slaughter of the Jews -- Costello's description of her sister applies equally to herself: ''intolerant and rigid and bullying.'' Despite this near miss, readers can seek out Coetzee's 15 other books and...

Oct 17 2003 | Read Full Review of Elizabeth Costello


Considering the myriad prizes this author and this book have won, I may be in the minority with my reaction to this book, but it was not for me.

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The Sunday Times

Secker £14.99 pp231 Invited to deliver the 1997-98 Tanner Lectures at Princeton, the South African writer, J M Coetzee, the author of Foe (a novel drawing upon Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe), read two short fictions about an Australian writer called Elizabeth Costello, the author of The House on...

Aug 31 2003 | Read Full Review of Elizabeth Costello

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