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Boyhood (Scenes from Provincial Life #1)

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  2,895 Ratings  ·  190 Reviews
Coetzee grew up in a new development north of Cape Town, tormented by guilt and fear. With a father he despised, and a mother he both adored and resented, he led a double life—the brilliant and well-behaved student at school, the princely despot at home, always terrified of losing his mother's love. His first encounters with literature, the awakenings of sexual desire, and ...more
Paperback, 166 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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Jan 24, 2010 David rated it liked it
Inside the front cover of Coetzee's Boyhood, in the police line-up of ejaculatory blurbs -- which I tend to find outrageously embarrassing -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is alleged to have called the book 'a liturgy of wisdom.' (Like me, you probably have a hunch that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the pimply-faced geek in school who never had a date and spent his lunch hour doing geometric proofs with the head of the math department.) Newsday, meanwhile, says it's comprised of 'pithy ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Oct 06, 2013 Lukasz Pruski rated it it was amazing
I find it amazing that there can be so much content in a 166-page book, and that the result is so spellbinding and perfect. J.M. Coetzee's "Boyhood: scenes from provincial life" is a portrait of the author as a 10-year-old boy growing up in South Africa. I have never read a more insightful analysis of a child's thinking and emerging personality; well, it is hard to find this level of psychological profundity in any writing. At the same time, the novel gives an amazingly rich and deep depiction o ...more
Ravi Gangwani
Coetzee, for me is really an angel. He knows how to touch the heart. Most of the sections of the book were so absorbing that I felt the need to pause for a moment to breath.

His tender heart, Summer Vacations on farms, money crisis of childhood, love for books, sport fanaticism, bully kids in school, attention on wealthy kids in school, scout guiding, differences between Catholics and Jews, mother's love and her sacrifices for him, fantasies during school days for sex and how babies come, the bl
أحمد شاكر
لما قرأت لهذا الرجل روايته (خزي)، تمنيت ساعتها أن أكون أنا كاتبها، وقلت: لا بد أن هذا الرجل يشبهني في شيء وأشبهه. وقررت متابعة القراءة له. واقتنيت في انتظار البرابرة، وحياة وزمن مايكل ك، من معرض القاهرة للكتاب أول هذا العام، واقتنيت أيام الصبا هذا من مكتبة مغمورة في وسط البلد، بسعر زهيد، وبدأت متابعة القراءة لكويتزي مرة أخري مع أيام الصبا.

وقد كان ما توقعته تماما: إنه يشبهني وأشبهه، وشعرت كأن مذكراته هي مذكراتي، لو قررت كتابتها فعلا. فهناك صفة إذا ما وجدت، سيترتب عليها أغلب بناء الشخصية؛ الخجل. إ
Ashley Lowe
Dec 22, 2009 Ashley Lowe rated it really liked it
An excellent memoir that uses totally unadorned language to tell the story of J.M. Coetzee as a young boy trying to make sense of the world and figure out the meaning of his life. The title and the use of "he," "his mother," "his father," and "his brother," instead of their names, gives this a sparse, universal, almost archetypal feel. Yet at the same time, Coetzee the individual, Coetzee the famous writer, is unmistakable, as the boy describes an almost religious feeling of being called to some ...more
Dec 26, 2010 Martin rated it really liked it
Everything I read from Coetzee has a profound impact on me. His words are so cutting, direct, affective, sincere, clear and concise. His ability to draw me in, paint a picture and transport me to wherever and whatever he is writing about astounds me. This is an autobiographical work with Coetzee himself as the narrator, referring to himself in the book as "he". I really like this approach because he is telling the reader about his life and the experiences that formed the man that he is today but ...more
Jun 12, 2011 Billy rated it liked it
My first Coetzee; I take it you're supposed to start with Waiting for the Barbarians or Michael K., but I just pulled this off our shelf (apparently C found it abandoned on the sidewalk a few years back, which is mildly poetic considering how this ends). It's in the form of a childhood memoir, but the nostalgia is not moist-eyed. It's a look back at a period in his early adolescent when his sense of separate selfhood developed, when he emerged to be something more than a target of his mother's a ...more
Ebtihal Abuali
Nov 26, 2015 Ebtihal Abuali rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memior
لم اتوقع هذا من كويتزي. اعتقد ان السيرة الذاتية لتكون ناجحة تحتاج الى ثيمة مركزية، أو تنطوي على محنة ما يمر بها البطل. هذه السيرة تفتقر الى الاثنين. هي ببساطة يوميات حياة الطفل كويتزي في جنوب افريقيا. علاقته بوالديه ومحيطه ومدرسته. لم اجد فيها ما يشدني. ربما فقط في الصفحات الاخيرة فيما يتعلق بالكشف العاطفي لعلاقته بأمه وأبيه شعرت بالاهتمام. سأتفق مع من قال على كويتزي البقاء في كتابة الرواية. استخدمت الكتاب للمساعدة على النوم.
Dec 22, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These "scenes from provincial life" far exceeded my expectations. JMC has written well about his youth and various lasting images of his youth. especially the racial diversity of his home that breeds deep racism even in early ages where the Afrikaans speak funny but view all whites of the boy's background as untrusted Jews. There is a piercing discussion of the boy's parents. His mother runs the house and he is thankful for this fact. His father is second-rate at all he does and finds various ve ...more
Jul 02, 2011 David rated it liked it
This is Coetzee's memoir. It leaves you with little doubt about why Coetzee writes. Very unusual and enjoyable sentence construction throughout -- third person, present tense, always in reference to his 10-year-old self. Nothing is idealized, nothing overly vague. This is a young, sometimes Afrikaner, pretend-Catholic kid that grows up relatively comfortably in a place with a lot of social strife and with parents he resents. It turns him inward, sharply, he probably has no other way out.

Babak Fakhamzadeh
Dec 04, 2012 Babak Fakhamzadeh rated it really liked it
Boyhood is a short novel on Coetzee's youth, growing up in the Western Cape. Beautifully written, it's very gripping, but it took me a while to grasp the point of the novel.
As with most biographies, there's no real story arc, no real plot, but that's not the point. Coetzee shows how he, as a boy, struggled with the meaning of his being, questioning everything and not understanding anything.
On the last page of the book, Coetzee makes a small revelation on his reasons for writing: "He alone is l
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 30, 2011 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-lit
This book veers between fascinating & terrifying. Fascinating because the voice of the young boy in question(possibly an autobiography of the author) is so strong, so vivid, and so evocative, that it may very well be the most realistic presentation of a young boy in all modern fiction. However, it’s also terrifying in the depiction of the boy’s hates, loathings, secrets, and opinions, especially towards his mother. Coetzee gives us a character with the perceptiveness of an adult, trapped in ...more
Oct 22, 2013 Adriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Traté un montón de veces de hacer una reseña de este libro que no sonara demasiado cursi. La verdad es que me encanta leer sobre África, el suelo rojo, los mosquitos, la noche en la veranda, el calor, los hormigueros gigantes de termitas, la amenaza de (animales) salvajes, las relaciones entre blancos y negros, entre nativos y europeos. Debe ser por la cantidad de cuentos y novelitas situadas en las colonias que nos hacían leer en la escuela (que algunas veces pasaban en India, varias en Austral ...more
Liz Estrada
May 25, 2016 Liz Estrada rated it did not like it
Sorry, but just couldn't get into the rhythm (or lack thereof ) of this novel. Found the writing bland and jagged and the third person narration dull and insipid. Very disappointed for it had come highly recommended. Have two other of his books and will still give them a try and hope the author uses a different writing style, more to my liking.
David Schaafsma
Boyhood is the name of a film by Richard Linklater that most people feel is one of the best of this past year, and I haven't seen it yet. It is not based on this memoir, which I guess might be classified as creative nonfiction, too, because it is written in the third person. It's the first of three (so far) in a series of growing up memoirs, followed by Youth and Summerime, both of which I purchased in hardcover just as they came out and have been gathering dust on my shelf ever almost ever sinc ...more
Alejandro Teruel
Sep 18, 2015 Alejandro Teruel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usb, ficción
A massive slab of my childhood was spent as an outsider in the UK, a quarter of a century after Coetzees childhood in South Africa, yet so much of his world resembles so much of mine, the affinity is startling and unsettling: the alienness of the adult world, the brittle childish sense of solipsism, a deep, unutterable love of a place in nature, the remote otherness of other children, the ambivalent need to distance feelings, the yearning to shine, the addiction to reading, the treacherous vicin ...more
Nevena Kotarac
Aug 06, 2014 Nevena Kotarac rated it really liked it
"Dečaštvo" je pokušaj da se bude iskren prema sopstvenom djetinjstvu. Džon odrasta u mističnom i nezanimljivom gradiću Vusteru. Njegova svakodnevnica ispunjena je odlascima u školu, potragom za igrom, trenucima koje provodi sa porodicom, snovima. Međutim, to je i doba pitanja i bolnih iskušenja. On je najbolji đak u školi – ali nikada do kraja prilagođen. Možda je to zbog njegovih roditelja? Jer, njegovi roditelji nisu "normalni". Nikada ga ne tuku, a čini se i da ga uvijek shvataju ozbiljno. Ko ...more
My knowledge about South Africa, Apartheid and Afrikaans are consisted of a little bit of Nelson Mandela, District 9 movie and Charlize Theron speaking Afrikaans on youtube, respectively. Reading Coetzee is a news to me and my ignorance has been weakened a bit more.

I have read somewhere that Coetzee is quite a silent person. During a meeting he didn’t talk a word, he's way too disciplined, he cycles to be healthy, barely smiles, he hasn't even gone to get a prize he won and he never eats meat, n
Feb 21, 2011 Trent rated it liked it
#21/2011 This book is 166pg. It took me a year to finish it. Why? Don't know. I'm a finicky reader at best. Seeing it amidst my stacks of books last night I decided enough's enough and knocked out the last 70pgs.

This, Coetzee's first of three creative memoirs, has all the hallmarks of things I love: an exotic locale, coming-of-age tale, life details of a literary great; however, the oddest thing happened every time I picked up this slim book. I felt weighed down by the writing, a sense of claus
Alexandra Bradan
Feb 21, 2015 Alexandra Bradan rated it liked it
Shelves: narrative
While I proceed with the reading, I was surprised by the commonality between the little protagonist and myself at the same age. Even if our backgrounds are quite different (I don't come from a small town in South Africa; indeed I used to live in a degradeted village in Roumania), I was intrigued by the protagonist's behaviours and his approach to life, because they resembled so much mine:

"He begings to think about himself as one of those spiders that live in a hole in the ground with a trapdoor
Derek Baldwin
Jul 28, 2011 Derek Baldwin rated it really liked it
In the Western Cape (as was) the Afrikaners in Coetzee's family would go to extraordinary lengths to talk to one another, and about themselves, in the third person. And so it's no surprise that in this slim memoir the author adopts the same tactic when looking back on his childhood self.

Of course looking back forty or fifty years how can you ever claim to be able to fully reinhabit your past self? Or pretend not to have knowledge which your older self now has but didn't have then... or at least
Oct 13, 2015 Ana rated it it was amazing
Sometimes the gloom lifts. The sky, that usually sits tight and closed over his head, not so near that it can be touched but not much further either, opens a slit, and for an interval he can see the world as it really is. He sees himself in his white shirt with rolled-up sleeves and the grey short trousers that he is on the point of outgrowing: not a child, not what a passer-by would call a child, too big for that now, too big to use that excuse, yet still as stupid and self-enclosed as a child: ...more
Bishan Samaddar
Mar 16, 2013 Bishan Samaddar rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childhood, africa, memoir
The most beautiful book on childhood I have come across. A childhood friend recommended this to me—I had already read most of Coetzee—because she thought I'd identify with this particular process of growing up. I was sceptical. But on reading it I was deeply. What about this narrative was appealing in spite of the physical realities being so different from mine? I suppose the feelings it inspires. They are really that of any childhood anyone has ever had. There is no escape from that emotional t ...more
Jaclyn Shore
Dec 30, 2015 Jaclyn Shore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the writing of J.M. Coetzee. He writes about a life I can relate to and topics that interest me, mainly the experiences of different people in South Africa, especially regarding issues such as race, culture and 'otherness', as well as personal development.

In this short book Coetzee writes about what he knows, as he tells the story of his own childhood growing up in a poor family during apartheid in South Africa, in a time where fathers were feared and liberal thinking frowned upon. I foun
محمد كلفت
Apr 23, 2015 محمد كلفت rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit, childhood
An intimate history of a boy growing in the 1940s-50s South Africa with many facets and layers of family, racism, sexuality, memory and knowledge, with a remarkable narration, namely his use of stream of consciousness, and psychoanalysis, of the self first and foremost, like lifting the debris of one's own childhood. No wonder it gives the impression of a fictionalized autobiography, a semi-autobiography, long before you come across the name Coetzee in this short but slow-reading text, with its ...more
David Chura
Sep 08, 2012 David Chura rated it really liked it
Coetzee takes the experience of "boyhood" and shapes a metaphor for South Africa's struggles, Freud's oedipal conflict, and modernism vs tradition and succeeds wonderfully. All done in stripped down prose yet highly evocative.
هشام العبيلي
سأكتفي في هذا العام 2015 بإضافة الكتب فقط، وستكون المراجعات على حسابي بالانستغرام ..
Jan 20, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
One of the best memoirs ever written.
Full stop. Punto y aparte.
Oct 21, 2016 jana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_2016
نحن أمام ذاكرة حادّة لا تنسى. وصور حقيقية من طفولة كويتزي مرسومة بدقّة وحرفية كأنها حدثت البارحة.
Oct 21, 2016 Eveline rated it liked it
Mooi geschreven maar er gebeurt weinig.
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  • The Lying Days
  • The Impostor
  • The Smell of Apples
  • My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience
  • A Change of Tongue
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  • Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir
  • Down Second Avenue: Growing Up in a South African Ghetto
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  • The Story of an African Farm
  • 117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under the South African 90-Day Detention Law
  • Ancestral Voices
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Scenes from Provincial Life (3 books)
  • Youth (Scenes from Provincial Life #2)
  • Summertime

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“Perhaps it does us good to have a fall every now and then. As long as we don't break.” 5 likes
“Is this love - this easy generosity, this sense of being understood at last, of not having to pretend?” 2 likes
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