Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
Fiction

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Synopsis

Shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize

A brilliant new work of fiction from the Nobel Prize-winning author of Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year

A young English biographer is researching a book about the late South African writer John Coetzee, focusing on Coetzee in his thirties, at a time when he was living in a rundown cottage in the Cape Town suburbs with his widowed father-a time, the biographer is convinced, when Coetzee was finding himself as a writer. Never having met the man himself, the biographer interviews five people who knew Coetzee well, including a married woman with whom he had an affair, his cousin Margot, and a Brazilian dancer whose daughter took English lessons with him. These accounts add up to an image of an awkward, reserved, and bookish young man who finds it hard to make meaningful connections with the people around him.

Summertime is an inventive and inspired work of fiction that allows J.M. Coetzee to imagine his own life with a critical and unsparing eye, revealing painful moral struggles and attempts to come to grips with what it means to care for another human being. Incisive, elegant, and often surprisingly funny, Summertime is a compelling work by one of today's most esteemed writers.



 

About J. M. Coetzee

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J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Foe, and Slow Man, among others. He has been awarded many prizes, including the Booker Prize (twice). In 2003, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
 
Published December 24, 2009 by Viking Adult. 272 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Summertime

The New York Times

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Sophie, his colleague and lover at the university, is similarly underwhelmed: “I never had the feeling I was with an exceptional person, a truly exceptional human being.” Another colleague, Martin, says of him that as a teacher, as a friend, “Something was always being held back.” Readers of Mr...

Dec 30 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The New York Times

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Late in the book, a former faculty colleague from the University of Cape Town named Sophie, with whom Coetzee had an affair (“In all the time I was with him I never had the feeling I was with an exceptional person”), offers — or, more accurately, is made by Coetzee himself to offer — this assessm...

Dec 24 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The Guardian

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But then again, considering that Coetzee has changed the most basic fact of his life – whether he is alive or dead – for the purposes of the novel, readers have no grounds for believing that anything else they are told about the character John Coetzee necessarily holds true for his eponymous crea...

Sep 06 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The Globe and Mail

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The novel, about an academic, Mr. Vincent, who is undertaking research for a biography of Coetzee, consists primarily of interviews with five people - friends, lovers, cousins, colleagues - those Vincent deems "important" to the deceased during the 1970s.

Jan 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

AV Club

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Readers may begin the book looking for glimpses of reality, but Coetzee redirects attention to the conflicting trajectories of the artist and the man.

Feb 04 2010 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

Entertainment Weekly

A– See all of this week's reviews Originally posted Dec 30, 2009 Published in issue #1084 Jan 08, 2010 Order article reprints

Jan 04 2010 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The Telegraph

Also, both his father’s condition – utter fatalism – and the country he has returned to – violently repressive – disturb John.

Sep 10 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

Review (Barnes & Noble)

John Coetzee is dead, and you can feel his relief on almost every page of Summertime.

Dec 30 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

Bookmarks Magazine

Most of the book is comprised of interview transcripts with Coetzee’s former acquaintances, a device which leaves it up to the reader to construct and interpret the true picture of the fictionalized Coetzee.

Aug 23 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The New York Review of Books

The irony here is that in Youth the young Coetzee is determined to prove “that each man is an island” (my emphasis), while in Summertime an ex-lover remembers Coetzee as having an “autistic quality,” not “constructed to fit into or be fitted into.

Feb 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The New York Review of Books

“Where it says Notwithstanding the aforesaid.” “It says that if you can demonstrate financial distress you are entitled to apply to the trust for support.” “It means that what is stated in this clause is an exception to what has been stated before and takes precedence over it.” “But it also me...

Aug 13 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

The New York Review of Books

In the lifestyle supplement to the weekend Argus he has come upon a Yes-No quiz that his father has filled in and left lying around, a quiz titled “Your Personal Satisfaction Index.” Next to the third question—”Have you known many members of the opposite sex?”—his father has ticked the box No.

Jul 16 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

Chicago Tribune

Take that, republic of letters!John Coetzee was at least “dogged” if not a great writer, maintains his would-be biographer, known only as Mr. Vincent, whose interviews and reworked versions of interviews with sources who knew Coetzee form the bulk of “Summertime.” Those interviews, by turns seari...

Dec 28 2009 | Read Full Review of Summertime: Fiction

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