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Slow Man


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Nobel laureate Coetzee's brillant account of a reclusive man in his sixties, forced to confront his resentment for what his life has become after the unexpected arrival of a famed writer.

About the Author

J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace, Summertime and The Childhood of Jesus. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.


The late Graham Greene wrote two different types of novel. For many he adopted a straightforward narrative style but from time to time created more quixotic works he called ?Entertainments?. I was reminded of the latter while reading Slow Man, J M Coetzee?s most recent novel, which commences with a cruel accident in which Paul, a fit older man, is knocked from his bicycle by a young motorist and loses one leg above the knee. Coetzee allows the hospitalisation, amputation, rehabilitation and return home of the patient to progress in a natural way, his frustration, anger, churlishness and occasional flashes of gratitude all portrayed in spare, elegant, moving prose, lulling the reader into a belief that the story will flow from beginning to end in a comfortingly old-fashioned way. Not so?this writer is far too clever for that. Just as we become comfortable with the evolving relationships between Paul and Marijana, his Croatian home nurse and her family, a crisis develops between them, the nurse ceases her visits and Elizabeth Costello appears, unbidden, on Paul?s doorstep. This is by no means a natural development in the story. She appears to be unknown to Paul and Coetzee gives no logical reason for her arrival on the scene but from this point the novel charges off in a series of new directions which will, I feel certain, provoke debate, uncertainty, amusement and irritation in roughly equal measure. In fact I re-read Elizabeth Costello just in case Paul had made a minor appearance in that book?he hadn?t! The author has fun allowing Costello to manipulate, cajole and drive Paul into and out of situations and relationships like an author trialling various scenarios. He ineffectually tries to regain control over his life however Costello is in no doubt as to how he should behave and where his best interests lie. I?m not revealing who wins this tussle?that would really spoil the book. Unlike Elizabeth Costello with its set-piece speeches, this tale is all action and drive?as I suggest above, an Entertainment. It is very accessible, touching, emotional writing, its characters involving and its situations all too believable, but its quirkiness, conciseness and wit, though enjoyed by me, may not satisfy readers expecting a more didactic novel. For them, of course, there is always John Irving! Max Oliver is a veteran Sydney bookseller C. 2005 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

Sensational... Another exemplary tale of suffering from one of the best writers of our time, who dares to articulate our incomprehensible existence, and manages it with extraordinary and sensitive eloquence * The Times *
[Slow Man] finds the Nobel laureate on top form... A consummate writer of fiction * Observer *
Coetzee is a unique voice; no novelist explores the ideas and the power of literature and the sense of displacement so boldly. Slow Man will add to his immense reputation * Independent on Sunday *
Remorselessly human, it is also funny and touching: Coetzee the artist remains the complete novelist * Irish Times *
A tremendous and startling novel... Coetzee is a novelist who cares about every word. Slow Man confirms him as among our greatest living authors * The Times *

The physical and spiritual ramifications of a life-changing event are at the heart of Nobel prize winner Coetzee's latest novel. While riding his bicycle one day, Paul Rayment, a sixtysomething French-born photographer living in Australia, is involved in an auto accident and loses a leg. A solitary and stubborn individual by nature, he is sent spiraling deeper into depression and social isolation. Only Marijana, his levelheaded Croatian nurse, whose family he will become involved with as he falls in love with her, begins to lift his gloom. Also entering his life is aging novelist Elizabeth Costello (who first appeared in Coetzee's eponymously titled 2003 work), a mysterious presence who seems to know a great deal about his situation even before meeting him and pushes him toward uncharacteristic risks in order to shake him from his malaise. This is a finely wrought portrait of a not entirely sympathetic protagonist crippled in ways that go well beyond the loss of a limb. Highly recommended.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Nobel-winner Coetzee (Disgrace) ponders life, love and the mind/ body connection in his latest heavy-hitter; he also plays a little trick. When retired photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his lengthy, lonely recuperation forces him to reflect on a life he deems wasted. The gloom lifts with the arrival of brisk, efficient Marijana Jokic, his Croatian day nurse, with whom Paul becomes infatuated. (He also takes a special interest in Marijana's teenage boy-the son he never had.) It's here, while Paul frets over how to express his feelings, that Coetzee (perhaps unsure if his dithering protagonist can sustain the book) gets weird: the distinguished writer Elizabeth Costello, eponymous heroine of Coetzee's 2003 novel, comes for a visit. To Paul's bewilderment, Costello (Coetzee's alter ego?) exhorts him to become more of a main character in the narrative, even orchestrating events to force his reactions. Some readers will object to this cleverness and the abstract forays into the mysteriousness of the writing process. It is to Coetzee's credit, however, a testament to his flawless prose and appealing voice, that while challenging the reader with postmodern shenanigans, the story of how Paul will take charge of his life and love continues to engage, while Elizabeth Costello the device softens into a real character, one facing frailties of her own. She pushes Paul, or Paul pushes Elizabeth-both push Coetzee-on to the bittersweet conclusion. Agent, Peter Lampack. (On sale Sept. 26) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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