Life and Times of Michael K
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Life and Times of Michael K

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  8,048 ratings  ·  472 reviews
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 int...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published August 6th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1983)
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David
~ This review dedicated to 'Ya Boy.' I'ma sip this, you do the rest. ~

The Community of Misery

'Misery loves company.' I've always kind of really hated that expression because (rightly or not) I've usually deciphered the unsettling subtext whenever it's employed: i.e., that people -- experiencing misfortunes or enduring profound unhappiness -- prefer that others are likewise afflicted.

When I was younger, for instance, my father, a nouveau riche who absurdly prided himself on the mythologized 'p...more
D. Pow
I have been thinking how much a good book is like an organic thing. When the proper level of alchemical transformation is reached between a skilled author at the top of his game and a reader with the proper level of receptivity and empathy then something new and wonderful is birthed. You are no longer dealing with some pulped paper glued together with some artful(or not) cover protecting its frail glyphs but you are in the presence of something larger, vaster and infinitely more sacred than just...more
Samadrita
Ask me to pronounce verdict on a work of literature flaunting self-indulgent wordplay, revelling in its own brand of avant-gardism which stops short of making a powerful statement on our troubled times, and my response to it is likely to be lukewarm.
Ask me to judge a book dissecting the greater human quandary with keen insight but in stilted prose, and my reaction will possibly be more or less the same.

But give me a story capable of dismantling all the divides of race, culture, political/relig...more
Paul
***CONTAINS SPOILERS I.E. HIGHLY INSULTING REMARKS ABOUT THE LAST PART OF THE BOOK***

Uh oh. Last thing I want to do is fall out with my bookfacingoodreadinfingerlickin friends such as Donald and Jessica, both of whom think this is so good you have to invent a new word for it, good just isn't good enough, brilliant is almost an insult. So as you can tell, I didn't share those views. I was so gripped by this book, couldn't wait to get back and finish it today, and then i hit the Doctor's Tale (las...more
Ben
Life and Times of Michael K completely lives up to the hype and deserves every fucking award it has received. Both corporeally and allegorically it is as deep as they come; it isn’t just about the slow thinking Michael K. trying to survive; it is about inner strength, our perceptions of others, individuality in a world in which we are alone; it is about how we view meaning, and the depths one can reach through those meanings when they are extensions of one’s true self.

Coetzee amazed me....take a...more
Jessica
Jan 18, 2009 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: novel readers, social workers, gardeners
Recommended to Jessica by: coterie of rabid coetzee maniacs who have infiltrated this site
Obviously there're a lot of people out there who write much better than I do, and in this way I feel writing's similar to distance running. I can run a passable marathon, though of course a lot of amateur runners out there run a much faster one. I'm impressed by people who run faster than I can, just as I am by those who write better than me. These people are humbling, but they're also inspiring: reading good writing or watching good running makes me want to write better and run faster. It's hea...more
C.
Mar 14, 2009 C. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to C. by: Most of goodreads
Shelves: 2009
Huh.

The prose was detached and lifeless, as I have come to expect from Coetzee. Which leaves you cold and alone. In the rain, outside on the deserted street gazing at the lighted windows of the stalinesque apartment buildings across the road. And inside you there's this dull ache of hollowness that is where the prose would be if it was there. And because you are so empty there is a sort of lack that swells and swells until it fills you whole and spills over into your thoughts and your actions. A...more
Quân Khuê
Với tôi, một cuốn sách hay là một cuốn sách nhiều gợi mở. Cuộc đời và thời đại của Michael K đích xác là một cuốn sách như thế. Gạt qua chủ đề số phận con người trong chiến tranh mà ta có thể dễ dàng tìm thấy trong nhiều cuốn sách khác, với cuốn sách này Coetzee đã tạo ra một nhân vật CON NGƯỜi phản chiến huy hoàng nhất theo một cách ít ai ngờ tới nhất. Nói như viên bác sĩ chữa bệnh cho Michael, Michael là một con người quý giá, một con người cuối cùng thuộc loại người của anh, một sinh vật bị b...more
Trevor
For about two-thirds of this I couldn’t have been more fascinated. However, something really strange happens two-thirds of the way in that I found very disappointing. The story goes from omniscient narration, first person directed to straight first person narration. Now, this would have been bad enough if the new narrator had been the voice of the person out of whose eyes the rest of the book had been seen – but it was someone else entirely. I got the feeling that the main reason for this was th...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jul 03, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone and 1001 book readers
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 book list
Normally when I write a review I like to be a bit sarcastic, or sometimes poke fun at the subject matter. This is not a book for sarcasm and I've had to set down my pointy mirth stick (the one I normally use for the poking of the fun).

Life and Times of Michael K is many thing
Poignant
Brief
Tragic

The writing has a sort of cold clarity, like a first breath of icy cold air on a winters morning which makes your lungs ache. Michael K is living in a war zone. He is an intelligent man who appreciates th...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
This book was very Kafkaesque. I do not say that lightly, since it tends to be a hackneyed short-form that passes for literary criticism by those who read The Metamorphosis in high school, and haven't touched Kafka since then. But this novel wasn't just Kafkaesque, it was so reminiscent and derivative (complete with heavy-handed and direct allusions to The Hunger Artist and The Castle), that at one point, I thought I might well have given up on it and just read ... Kafka.

But wait -- the best bi...more
Rayroy
Michael K wants no part of the Civil War taking place in South Africa, he works at a park in Cape Town, and takes care of his mother, expect that it rains all the time, everything is wet inside the house, Michael takes care of his mother in and lives in,rocks have been thrown through all the windows,so it's wet insdie. What are son and mother, who can't stand up on her weak legs, to do but leave and move out to the country away from the cold rain and strife of the city? This isn’t safe as they...more
Kaloyana
Така, така... Явно Кутси не може да пише по друг начин освен силно, много силно, смилено, потресаващо, умопомрачително добре. Така само ограничава възможността ми аз да кажа нещо смислено и различно за книгите му. Но това си е мой проблем :)

Майкъл К. е роден със заешка устна. Според околните е леко бавноразвиващ се, но читателят остава с друго впечатление - човек, който не е част от системата, не мисли и не реагира като Цялото. А щом е така, значи нещо не е наред. Това предопределя различния жив...more
Richard
Is There Joy in Utter Destitution?

Musings on The Life and Times of Michael K.

When I was thirteen, we moved out to a smallholding on the outskirts of Johannesburg. We still refer to it as “The Farm”, but only about a third of the land was arable, the rest was slate, covered with a thin crust of dust and scrub. There was a borehole and an orchard, a vegetable patch, chickens, three horses, two donkeys, a cow, and two pigs. There was also a family of nine – Wilson and Rebecca M. and their seven chi...more
Hadrian
A novel in parts. The first being a comically miserable little tale of a Kafka character in Sud-Afrika, the second of a doctor's philosophical investigations of this man, and the third being some hippy-dippy nonsense.

Yossibarzilai
Muy "kafkiano" en muchos aspectos, una de las mejores historias sobre la libertad individual y la dignidad que he leído y un final magnífico.
Rhonda
This was the first book I read by Coetzee and I wanted an introduction to his style before I tackled the great Barbarians, about which the literary world sings paeans of glory. When I finished this book, I went back to read the comments left by others because I believed that I must have picked up the wrong book. With only a handful of exceptions, the reviews I read seemed to indicate a brilliance I cannot locate.

That this books is evocative of the bleak and pointless existence of some people in...more
JSou
A couple months ago, my washing machine stopped working. I had a repair guy come out to give me an estimate to see if it was even worth fixing. I needed a new pump put in that would cost me $175 plus labor. Needless to say, I had to wait a few days before going ahead and getting it fixed. I cannot express enough how stressed out I was that week. Just thinking of all the laundry piling up was freaking me out. I complained about it to friends on a daily basis and even thought, "Why do these things...more
Trevor
"The damp weather was no good for her, nor was the unending worry about the future. Once settled in Prince Albert she would quickly recover her health. At most, they would be a day or two on the road. People were decent, people would stop and give them lifts."

This is one of those rare works of art that by showing ugliness gets the person paying attention to recognize, more deeply, beauty. I'm not sure how it happens, but while reading this book, this book about a war and about one man's physical...more
Jeanette
Jan 26, 2014 Jeanette rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1
Shelves: africa, fiction, literary
Though only a short novel, I was very relieved to get to the end of Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K. Yes, it won the 1983 Booker Prize and is written in effortless prose. The story is written at a time when devastating civil war must have seemed inevitable to many South Africans and while apartheid is in the very weft and woof of the novel, it is not ever explicitly mentioned.

For me it was hard to connect with the main character, Michael who seems to care so little even for his mother (th...more
K.D. Absolutely
The novel is divided into 3 parts. The first part was about Michael - who is jobless, skeletal thin, almost penniless - trying to bring back his dying mother to her hometown. The style the author used is direct storytelling (author as a third person). It is quite depressing because they could not leave without the permit from government so Michael attempted several times in different exit points with his mother on the handmade cart that he constructed. For me it's a bit far-off considering that...more
El
In the first part of this book we meet Michael K, born with a harelip and living in Cape Town, South Africa. As an adult his mother falls sick and he is struck by the realization the only way to save her is to bring her to her homeland not involved in the civil war of his own town. What happens on their journey change the direction of Michael K's life and he is forced to depend upon himself in order to survive.

This is a testament to human nature, what a strong spirit can do for one person and th...more
Sharron
The more I think of this book, the more I love it. It is a mere 185 pages but is packed with enduring images of a man who only asks to be allowed to be himself. Michael K is a simple man of modest means but his life is so much more than those words would suggest. I would recommend this book highly.
Jordi Via
Una muy buena lección para todos los que ven más problemas a su alrededor de los que realmente tienen.
Un día en la vida de Michael K podría ser el final de una de las nuestras.
Aún estoy asimilando las últimas palabras de esta maravillosa novela.
Jillian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
I purchased a copy of this book 5 years ago and read it only today. The fact that I ended up reading it only in a single day, divided in 2 sittings, explains that I was now ready for it. I could make out and enjoy the twisting and toying of the outsider condition in Coetzee's able hands. That he shifts the absurd terror of Kafka's bureaucratic world to the barbaric South African landscape is at once a brave and creative move. The indifference of Michael K seems like a strange sort of courage, li...more
Patrick
An odd thing about J.M. Coetzee is that I always find it quite hard to remember exactly which of his novels I’ve read. And even when I do manage to pick them out of a line-up their plots begin to overlap and merge in my mind. I’m quite aware that this doesn’t really make any sense, since books like ‘Disgrace’ and ‘Foe’ and ‘Diary of a Bad Year’ are all quite different in setting and style, but nevertheless I feel strongly that going back to him is like returning to a genre all of its own, a worl...more
Joseph
So disappointed was I with the second half of his two volume memoir, Youth, that not long after he won the Nobel, I left Coetzee sitting over the dim blue lotus of my literary backburner. Five years later, with a taste for the grim joys of some Kafka or Beckett but needing light respite from the labyrinthic bales of Gaddis’s Byzantine sentence; I picked up this slim volume and grazed through it for a couple afternoons. I chose wisely: anyone having savored Beckett or Kafka will see at every turn...more
Tieu uyen
Cuộc đời và thời đại của Michael K là câu truyện ngụ ngôn của tự do.
Nền là cuộc chiến tranh, một anh da đen sứt môi, không được học hành vì trí tuệ hơi kém, gia cảnh bần hàn, được đào tạo để trở thành thợ làm vườn sẽ sống sót thế nào qua cái cuộc chiến tranh apartheid? Một anh con trai không bố, vùng vẫy với thời cuộc để đưa mẹ thoát khỏi thành phố, trở về quê nhà, hoàn thành tâm nguyện của mẹ với lòng thành kính ngây thơ.

Coetzee đã thành công khi đưa ra một “dụ ngôn bí ngôn”. Bí ngô biểu tượng...more
gieb
inilah bukti, bahwa penanda teks bisa membuat kita merasa asing dan terpencil. mungkin karena buku ini adalah sebuah terjemahan. sehingga teks yang dilahirkan adalah teks yang prematur. belum sempurna betul. pun bisa jadi tidak benar-benar melalui rahim sang penulis.

seharusnya, kisah hidup michael k bisa mengharu biru. karena si coetzee ini adalah salah satu penulis moralis handal. terbukti dengan beberapa penghargaan yang dia peroleh.

saya suka ceritanya. saya takjud dengan kisah hidup k. penuh...more
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John Maxwell Coetzee is an author and academic from South Africa. He is now an Australian citizen and lives in South Australia.
A novelist and literary critic as well as a translator, Coetzee has won the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.
More about J.M. Coetzee...
Disgrace Waiting for the Barbarians Slow Man Elizabeth Costello Foe

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“He even knew the reason why: because enough men had gone off to war saying the time for gardening was when the war was over; whereas there must be men to stay behind and keep gardening alive, or at least the idea of gardening; because once that cord was broken, the earth would grow hard and forget her children. That was why.” 5 likes
“He thought of himself not as something heavy that left tracks behind it, but if anything, as a speck upon the surface of an earth too deeply asleep to notice the scratch of ant feet, the rasp of butterfly teeth, the tumbling of dust” 5 likes
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