Youth by J. M. Coetzee
Scenes from Provincial Life II

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Synopsis

The narrator of Youth, a student in the South Africa of the 1950s, has long been plotting an escape from his native country: from the stifling love of his mother, a father whose failures haunt him, and what he is sure is impending revolution. Studying mathematics, reading poetry, and saving money, he tries to ensure that when he arrives in the real world, wherever that may be, he will be prepared to experience life to its full intensity and transform it into art.

Arriving at last in London, however, he finds neither poetry nor romance. Instead he succumbs to the monotony of life as a computer programmer, from which random, loveless affairs offer no relief. Devoid of inspiration, he stops writing. An awkward colonial, a constitutional outsider, he begins a dark pilgrimage in which he is continually tested and continually found wanting. Set against the background of the 1960s-Sharpeville, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam-Youth is a remarkable portrait of a consciousness, isolated and adrift, turning in on itself. J. M. Coetzee explores a young man's struggle to find his way in the world with tenderness and a fierce clarity.
 

About J. M. Coetzee

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Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, John Michael Coetzee studied first at Cape Town and later at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in literature. In 1972 he returned to South Africa and joined the faculty of the University of Cape Town. His works of fiction include Dusklands, Waiting for the Barbarians, which won South Africa’s highest literary honor, the Central News Agency Literary Award, and the Life and Times of Michael K., for which Coetzee was awarded his first Booker Prize in 1983. He has also published a memoir, Boyhood: Scenes From a Provincial Life, and several essays collections. He has won many other literary prizes including the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. In 1999 he again won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for Disgrace, becoming the first author to win the award twice in its 31-year history. In 2003, Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
 
Published July 8, 2002 by Viking Adult. 144 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Youth

The Guardian

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Coetzee is very hard on himself in creating a character - if indeed it is himself - so wretched and dislikeable.

Apr 21 2002 | Read Full Review of Youth: Scenes from Provincial...

The Guardian

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Youth JM Coetzee 169pp, Secker, £14.99 Disgrace , JM Coetzee's last novel, set a contemporary benchmark in good fiction.

May 04 2002 | Read Full Review of Youth: Scenes from Provincial...

Publishers Weekly

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Though he fails to make his intense and awkward personality particularly appealing, Coetzee succeeds in defining the dilemma of the artist-as-a-young-man in sympathetic if angst-ridden terms that reflect the doubts of those who decide to devote their lives to literature without any idea of how th...

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Scotsman.com

Whether destiny pays visits to the countryside is not certain, even if it is the English countryside, and even if it is barely an hour train from Waterloo … " Is that irony directed at John by himself, or by Coetzee at John?

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London Review of Books

If there were to be another memoir it would cover Coetzee’s move to America (a move which the anti-American narrator of Youth strongly resists) to study linguistics and stylistics at the University of Texas at Austin and to write a PhD thesis on Beckett.

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