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Youth (Scenes from Provincial Life #2)

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  3,535 ratings  ·  199 reviews
The second installment of J. M. Coetzee's fictionalized "memoir" explores a young man's struggle to experience life to its full intensity and transform it into art. The narrator of Youth has long been plotting an escape-from the stifling love of his overbearing mother, a father whose failures haunt him, and what he is sure is impending revolution in his native country of S ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 7th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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Oct 11, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want a book to fit into their navel
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list and danielle23
Shelves: 1001-books
From the book cover:
Set against the background of the 1960's - Sharpeville and the Cuban Missile Crisis, 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.


When I first started reading this book my first thought was, Dawsons Creek, with aspergers set in the 1960's. To much youthful angst and introverted navel gazing highlighted by
"Youth" is a portrait of an artist as a young man - struggling to find his way.
Maybe I will just start with a quote;

"At 18 he might have been a poet. Now he is not a poet, not a writer, not an artist. He is a computer programmer, a 24year old computer programmer in a world where there are (yet) no 30 year old computer programmers. At 31 he is too old to be a programmer: one turns oneself into something else - some kind of businessman - or shoots oneself" Coetzee.

Darn. I have 7 foolscap pages of
Just reread it. The ending was pretty devastating. The whole book was really. I don't generally care for coming-of-age stories but Coetzee is such a fascinating individual to me (maybe because I'm a fellow uber-rational, emotional cripple)...

"She writes every week but he does not write every week in return. That would be too much like

"He has a horror of spilling mere emotion on to the page. Once it has begun to spill out he would not know how to stop it. It would be like severing
By page 115 of this slim fictional memoir, Coetzee had convinced me that he's a beautiful writer. He manages to avoid corniness, even though he's describing the inner narrative of an ex-pat wannabe poet (recipe for sappy disaster). There are some ethical musings in here which are quite good and I like the whole construct of an author describing a fictional character's interaction with other authors. It achieves a distance between Coetzee and his pathetic, miserable hero that is compelling. There ...more
This is the most autobigraphical book i related to on so many levels, however reluctant i am to admit that. Its a rather bleak book with such raw honesty and rhetoric questions. This is my first book by Coetzee, and i absolutely love it, his way of exploring so much striking truth in this short sentences, going straight into the consciousness of the 19 year old in London. I find myself enjoying it and finishing it fast, probably the fastest i have ever finished a book. The pretentiousness of an ...more
Isaac VR
Una de las novelas más ñoñas jamás escritas. Los escritores suelen hacerlo en sus memorias, pero tiene sentido: no todos los escritores son Burroughs ni todos se pasaron la mitad de su vida enajenados con una bolsa de correspondencia al hombro. Las confesiones de juventud (ficticias o reales, no me importa) suelen ser una ñoñería, sin embargo esto no significa que no estén escritas con una prosa bien lograda, como de una persona que ha trabajado en su voz narrativa (tiene un Nobel, coño).
Marcel Krueger
Yes, I know about the whole appreciation of the elusive genius that Herr Coetzee is, and about that prize they gave him in Stockholm. So obviously quite a few people like his prose.

I don't. This book reads like a dishwasher manual, that's how flat and emotionless the sentences are. The struggles of the narrator are superfluous and self-inflicted due to the utterly strange world view permeating the whole book. Basically, I wanted to shake the narrator on every single page and shout "Get a life!"
Lukasz Pruski
Maybe I am just bored with J.M. Coetzee's utter literary perfection, but I will not rate "Youth" with five stars. Clearly, it is a five-star work in any reasonable scale, but not when compared with "Disgrace", "Waiting for the Barbarians", or "Boyhood". To me, "Youth" is a great book, yet a tiny bit short of a masterpiece.

Like "Boyhood", this book is a fictionalized autobiography. It covers the period from 1959 to 1963 or so, meaning that "he" (the author writes about himself in the third person
Christy S
I believe it was Mary Knott, librarian and friend, who recommended this author to me. In my usual pickiness over fiction, I probably would not have had the joy of reading it had it not been one of my only options to trade for at a hostal we passed through.

I am not often a reader of fiction, and so it is sometimes hard for me to describe how I experience it (do I say this in all of my reviews of fiction?). This book is about the 1960s, London, South Africa, and work. But Coetzee has primarily wri
Sean de la Rosa
This second instalment in Coetzees autobiography tells of a young man making his way to London as a novice computer programmer. The moments of extreme loneliness, uncertainty and poor spirit experienced made me reminisce a lot about my own sojourning in Europe a few years ago. The book provides some interesting reflections on apartheid in South Africa from a foreigners perspective.

I am amazed at the ease of Coetzees prose. The honesty and clarity of his writing combined with a strong South Afri
Coetzee’s Youth is about aSouth African Mathematics student, who flees his politically instable countryto work as a computer programmer in the United Kingdom of the 1950s. Hisambitions there is to follow his idles TS Eliot and Ezra pound, and become apoet, in England, which was the home of most of the greatest poets of theEnglish language. Instead this work is dull, and England has a greater need for his services as an employee, than for his artistic talent. Poems will not increase the country’ ...more
My least favorite kind of fiction: the journey into the self without any intention of emerging with a broader message. Perhaps it's because I'm still married to the Victorian novels that are massive social critiques couched in domestic narratives, but I find this kind of psychological, post-Proust fiction deeply unsatisfying. Especially since Coetzee [remember Barbarians and Disgrace?:] has it in him to do more, to take this portrait of a young student and make it "about" something: options in t ...more
This novella concerns John, a young man who has graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in Mathematics. John is unhappy with the treatment of the black population of South Africa. He also fears the polictical unrest of his native country, and so, moves to England. The story follows John through his youthful dreams of a successful career as a writer. To survive, he takes a dreary job with IBM. He attempts to fashion his life in the style of his favorite writers, but soon finds he ...more
Sorin Hadârcă
Iată un tânăr grețos de rece, pedant, inhibat și timid. Cum din acest aluat iese un laureat al Premiului Nobel pentru literarură e un mare mister. Căutăm rezolvarea misterului în partea a 3-a a trilogiei autobiografice.
To detail the plot very simply Youth tells the story of a white man from South Africa who escapes to London thinking hoping like one usually does when one moves to a fancy town, of great adventures but ends up becoming one of the many soul less faces of the newly booming IT industry.

But then, no one reads a Coetzee for the plot. Though, it is credible how he weaves the plot through so many voices. Youth has two voices – the youth’s and the narrator’s. And it becomes difficult sometimes to tell t
Carlos Ardavin
Hermosa e intensa novela "autobiográfica" de Coetzee. Su encanto mayor radica en su detenido examen de la personalidad de su protagonista, un joven que desea apasionadamente vivir la vida en términos poéticos, intelectuales. Las referencias literarias que maneja Coetzee son múltiples (sorprende su conocimiento más que aceptable de la poesía latinoamericana y española). Estas incursiones o erudiciones nunca son gratuitas, sino que convienen al desarrollo psicológico del protagonista, John, en el ...more
An apparently autobiographical account of a young South African of Boer descent who moves to London at the start of the 60s. He finds the fun being had at the dawn of the era of liberation somewhat eludes him, partly for his morose temperament, provincialness and social and sexual awkwardness but partly because the life of the Bohemian poet in practice (as opposed to his fantasies) repels him.
Accordingly he buys a suit and takes a job as a fledgling programmer with IBM, then (as now) about the l
Gerald Camp
This seems to be the middle installment of Coetzee's fictionalized autobiography. Beautifully written and engaging, though somewhat depressing. I will certainly want to read the previous installment, Boyhood, and whatever comes after this one.
Martin Boyle
Perhaps it was a problem of reading volume two of a fictionalised memoir before the first? I was massively disappointed by this book. The characters and the plot are thin and unconvincing and there did not feel to be any substance behind it at all. For a short (and quick) read, I found myself bored (a bit like the the lead character?) and wondering if there was any message in the story and if it was really worth the effort finishing it.

Yes, there were some mildly interesting caricatures and some
El joven Coetzee, para poder ser poeta, se va de Sudáfrica a Inglaterra. Me gustó mucho cómo lo cuenta, en especial en esta pregunta que se hace allá: "¿Por qué en este país las grandes palabras parecen fuera de lugar?"
Emiliano Urbim
A bildungsroman where nothing is built; instead, every illusion the narrador has about his artistic aspirations are demolished. Ironicaly, cruelly and sublimely demolished.
Arun Shivanandan
I was looking at the library shelves for something to take with me during a 2 weeks trip to UK, with almost a week in London. Most books went over my then mood, but landed in this with luck. From the first paragraph itself it was clear that I will love this book. The mood of the prose just hit it off.

I had read some Coetzee a few years back, mainly his acclaimed novel Disgrace. I had liked that book, even though I went over some of the Byron; I would like to re-read it. I did own a copy of Youth
Wayland Smith
This is a story of a man's journey to find his place in the world. He struggles to escape from a life he can't stand in South Africa, and believes his life will be something wonderful if gets to London.

Ever heard the phrase, "No matter where you go, there you are"? Well, that's the case here. Moving doesn't solve your problems, and if you romanticize a place too much, you risk being drastically disappointed if you get there.

This is a very literary, prettily written book. I don't find it to be th
Bailar solo cobra sentido cuando se interpreta como otra cosa, algo que l gente prefiere no admitir. Esa otra cosa es lo verdadera importante: el baile no es m��s que la m��scara. Sacar a bailar a una chica significa hacerle proposiciones; aceptar la invitaci��n a bailar significa el consentimiento a las proposiciones; y bailar es la representaci��n y prefiguraci��n de la relaci��n. Las correspondencias son tan obvias que se pregunta por qu�� la gente se molesta en bailar. ��Para qu�� arreglarse ...more
*No Spoilers*

This isn't the kind of book I usually read; in fact, I only read it for one of my college classes. That being said, I kind of liked this book. Not enough to give it more than a 3.5 star rating, but I by no means hated it.

To be fair, John grew on me as a character and by the end of the novel I liked him as opposed to the beginning where I wasn't really a fan.

All in all, if you like biographical fiction novels, then I would recommend this book, but it's definitely not something I wo
Paulo Fehlauer
Saw myself on the last chapter.
This book is not as good as Disgrace or Michael K. Probably because the subject matter of Youth, a young guy trying to pursue the artist pursuit of writing while maintaining a "normal" office job, is not as shocking or provocative as that of Deisgrace and Michael K. Despite the fact Youth doesn't feel like a "real" (award winning) Coetzee, it is a great book. It is definitely a light read but I really enjoyed it. There were moments when it felt like the story cut close to the bone - my bones. At ...more
Ketzē pieeja autobiogrāfijai ir krietni citāda kā Petijai Smitai. Te nav nekādas romantizēšanas, nekādas pagātnes glorifikācijas. Tieši otrādi: jaunietis Ketzē vispirms ir smieklīgs dunduks, tad kļūst par grūti izturamu dunduku un visbeidzot neizprotamā veidā, nemainoties uzvedībai, pamanās radīt simpātijas un klusu traģēdijas apziņu. Dzimto Keiptaunu viņš pamet 22 gadu vecumā, dodoties uz Londonu kļūt par ģeniālu dzejnieku un atrast mūža mīlestību. Patiesībā darbos un pelēkajās Londonas dienās ...more
Ik moet het boek nog tegenkomen waardoor Coetzee als ontvanger van de Nobelprijs "gerechtvaardigd" kan worden. Dit kan pretentieus overkomen, maar ik kan er niet aan doen: ik erger me meer en meer aan zijn manier van schrijven. Of nee, eerder aan zijn onderwerpkeuze.

Pas maakte ik, dankzij Kim, kennis met Coetzee in een interview bij Zomergasten op de VPRO met Johan Simons. Ik vond hem geweldig. Ik begreep dat hij moeite had met zich uit te drukken; op die manier heb ik vaak ook last van taal -
It was only midway through the book that I realized that "Youth" is the second part of a trilogy which is a fictionalized memoir of Coetzee's own life. Though it's a slim book, I don't recollect spending as much time reading a similar sized book as I did on this in recent times. A young 20 something mathematician and aspiring artist decides to leave South Africa for good and lands up in London in the hope of immersing himself in a world of high art and sophistication. But to achieve that, one hu ...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 Life and Times of Michael K Slow Man Elizabeth Costello

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“But he cannot see a connection between the end of yearning and the end of poetry. Is that what growing up amounts to: growing out of yearning, of passion, of all intensities of the soul?” 14 likes
“What more is required than a kind of stupid, insensitive doggedness, as lover, as writer, together with a readiness to fail and fail again?” 1 likes
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