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Boyhood (Scenes from Provincial Life #1)

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  2,398 ratings  ·  157 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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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
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
Ashley Lowe
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
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
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
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
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
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
Nevena Kotarac
"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
#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
Derek Baldwin
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
Bishan Samaddar
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
Babak Fakhamzadeh
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
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.

Daniel Kukwa
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
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
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
Jun 19, 2015 Rhymma rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Whoever wants to understand boys better.
First of all, isn't this the movie nominated for the Oscars 2015? I still haven't seen the movie, but I believe no director can portray the grey, misty atmosphere of the book as well as the author. The story goes on in South Africa, beautifully describing a young fellow's early life in Cape Town and Worcester. I always had this picture on my mind while reading, a pale orange-colored, dusty sky above a series of houses, with a boy riding his bike in the sidewalk. Anyway it was pleasantly detailed ...more
Alexandra Bradan
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
There is something about his books. I just can't stop reading him now. I will move on to another of his shortly. As far as this one in particular, I could sincerely relate to his feelings about life and what it is like growing up with "the indignity of the absense of privacy" and how he takes it all in even though we are of the opposite sex. I admire his honesty in this book..and find it to be very brave as well. Good read. I could have read more and been given more detail though.
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
Ubik 2.0
L’infanzia di J.M.

Prima parte dell’autobiografia dell’autore premio Nobel J.M.Coetzee, “Infanzia” risente molto della particolarità del contesto etnico e sociale sudafricano nel quale un lettore europeo fatica ad orientarsi.

Inglesi, afrikaans, boeri, meticci, nativi sono gruppi a sé stanti, ognuno con proprie regole, caratteristiche e credo religioso, che evitano per quanto possibile di fondersi e, per un bambino qual è il narratore Coetzee (in terza persona, però) queste laceranti difficoltà di
Brett Hetherington
In this book Coetzee has used his own childhood in small-town South Africa to create a work of fiction that appears to be at least partly biographical. This Nobel Prize winner takes us into his character John's pre-teen world and through his teenage years in a very honest depiction of an awkward and self-conscious kid. His family sees themselves as middle-class and with an Anglo identity that includes John's fascination with one of the greatest English contributions to world culture – the game o ...more
Patrik Lindberg
Trots en intressant utgångspunkt i 40- och 50-talens Sydafrika, lyckas inte Coetzee riktigt fånga mitt totala intresse. Berättelsen känns lite ytlig, stapplar ofta och känns lösryckt. JDen kräver också av läsaren att hen är insatt i landets olika folkgruppers motsättningar och historia för att få ut mera av skildringarna. Om man inte känner till landets historia och hur motsättningarna mellan främst engelskspråkiga (engelsmännen), afrikanderna (boerna) uppstått kan det vara svårt att förstå konf ...more
David Chura
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.
One of the best memoirs ever written.
Full stop. Punto y aparte.
Aug 10, 2009 Mazel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: roman
John est un jeune Afrikaner qui vit en Afrique du Sud, au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Élevé tranquillement entre une mère ancienne institutrice et un père avocat reconverti dans la comptabilité, il mène une vie partagée entre l'école primaire, les vacances et le quotidien familial.

Un gosse comme les autres, à cela près qu'il entretient une haine sans faille pour les Afrikaners, lourds et ballots, dans une société où triomphent les hiérarchies, où les castes et les races sont bien d
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Third person-present tense? Hmm. I basically read this book in two sittings, and when I picked it up the second time I was momentarily surprised to see the third person "he," and not an "I" voice: I had READ third person but HEARD first. Perhaps this is because other writers so frequently use first person-present tense now, presumably to make the distant past immediate and to craft an intimacy with the reader (and their own past self), but I think it's a weird, feigned way to write about your pa ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Ron added it
This is the first volume of the autobiography of the South African novelist and professor, although I notice the "A" word does not actually appear on it and it is written in the third person as if to distance the writer from the protagonist.

It's a wonderfully observed account of the early life of a boy of Afrikaans descent but English sympathies as he grows up in the Western Cape. It shows his love of reading, his own company and his uncle's farm and it gives a detailed child's insight into fam
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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
  • Summertime
Disgrace Waiting for the Barbarians Life and Times of Michael K Slow Man Elizabeth Costello

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“Perhaps it does us good to have a fall every now and then. As long as we don't break.” 3 likes
“Is this love - this easy generosity, this sense of being understood at last, of not having to pretend?” 0 likes
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