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3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  659 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Dusklands (1974) is the first novel by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is a presentation and critique of the violence inherent in the colonialist and imperialist mentality of the Western world.

The novel actually consists of two separate stories. The first one, "The Vietnam Project", relates the gradual descent into insanity of its protagonis...more
Paperback, 125 pages
Published January 1st 1985 by Penguin Books (first published 1974)
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K.D. Absolutely
May 21, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
Very powerful. To think that this was J. M. Coetzee's first novel.

This is my 4th book by him. Last year, I read his The Life and Times of Michael K, Disgrace and Slowman. Despite the Booker awards he got in the first two book, there were times I wondered how he was able to get his Nobel Prize for Literature. Michael K barely has anything on racism as it only touches on military involvement due to racial segregation with Michael K and his mother fleeing the city. Disgrace is about a professor as...more
Ben Dutton
J.M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003. I know this as a fact as every work published by him after this date is plastered with this fact. Two things are wrong with this statement: 1) you don’t win a Nobel Prize, you are awarded one, and 2) having a Nobel Prize conferred on you doesn’t automatically make all of your work wondrous.

I have always admired Coetzee – and admired is so the right word. You don’t love Coetzee, in fact sometimes he repels you; sometimes he spits in your f...more
Angélique Moreau
I was stunned by Coetzee's first novel. Of course, we could object that this is but the rough sketch of the vision and the power of the following of his works, or that the construction is wobbly, as it is made of two short stories in different times and settings.

I cannot deny all that, but I think I read the book at the right moment, as I was researching how war narratives question gender, and more particularly masculinity. The two main characters fed my research, and teach the reader about the...more
Lukasz Pruski
J.M. Coetzee's first book, "Dusklands", is the fifth I have read by this author. To me, it is the weakest of the five, but the term "weakest" means "less excellent" (or "not as obviously outstanding"). It does not have the crystalline clarity and wisdom of "Disgrace" or "Waiting for the Barbarians", and it does not quite reach the depth and beauty of "Boyhood" or "Youth". It is still better than 99% of fiction out there, though.

The book is comprised of two separate short novellas, "The Vietnam P...more
This is a book consisting of two novellas; the first works of Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee. Not the best introduction into his works… or so I’m told. But it was still a satisfying read.

The first story in the book is entitled ‘The Vietnam Project’ and is about Eugene Dawn, a writer researching the effectiveness of the United States propaganda warfare in Vietnam. It’s written in journal format and his report to his superior (Mr Coetzee) is also included. What starts off as a somewhat dry disse...more
Tony Hightower
These two short novels, one about a writer going through a messy divorce and the other about an 18th century frontiersman and the Hottentots he has to deal with, are tied together by the single act of violence on which their stories turn. Both stories involve the power their protagonists understand they wield, and their shaky hold on that power, over themselves, their dependents and the world they inhabit, and their ultimate succumbing to that power serves as both stories' climax.

The second stor...more
Guillermo Jiménez
Según Francisco Ayala, el primer juicio de valor del crítico lo hace al elegir la obra. Al escoger cierta novela como su objeto de estudio, está ya afirmando algo sobre el libro.

Hoy, platicando con Miguel comprendí un poco más de cerca la labor del crítico, del académico, del estudioso. Siempre me he granjeado estar en otro lado, en otra parte ajena a ese quehacer superior en la literatura. Sin embargo, me he procurado estar cerca o seguir a aquellos en cuyo juicio confío.

El primero de todos es...more
Katie Grainger
Whenever you open a book by J M Coetzee you know it will be an event. Even if you don't particularly enjoy the prose or the topic you find yourself holding your breath a little. Dusklands is no exception.

A book which I felt is ultimately about repression made me think that history does repeat itself and all through it cultures have done unspeakable things to each other. This is not a pick me up read and definitely not a feel good read, however as with all Coetzee books it keeps you thinking stre...more
Prooost Davis
"Dusklands" consists of two novellas, each concerning men who are pretty sure they know what's what. The first man, Eugene Dawn, is an expert on psychological warfare, and the story, "The Vietnam Project," concerns his struggles with both his professional and his private lives. His considering himself an intellectual realist does not keep him from doing some irrational things that get him into trouble.

The second man, one Jacobus Coetzee, an 18th Century Dutch inhabitant of South Africa, goes on...more
June Louise
Oh dear - what a horrible book! Admittedly it isn't the kind of novella I would pick up normally, but having to read this as part of my Uni syllabus, I decided to give it a go and started it with an open-mind.

Thankfully, it is short. It's too blood-thirsty and violent for me, but yet I guess the author is portraying that to show what extremes in behaviour lead to. The text in the first story is a mixture of character biography and technical jargon; we certainly get the impression that Eugene Da...more
Debayan Nag

The first book of Coetzee I have read, "Dusklands" the term metaphorically stands true to the contexts of both the, sort of, adventures and vindictive stories the book unfolds. The inner visions and the complete self of both the protagonists, Eugene Dawn and the frontiersman, have been vividly characterized - a genuine credit to the experience and narrative technique of the author. The portrayal of the characters though had differences.
The narrative covering the Vietnam Project, the distinct w...more
Jul 12, 2010 Enrique rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: admiradores de J.M. Coetzee
De acuerdo a Anton Chekov, toda buena historia debe tener 6 principios; 1. Ausencia de lenguaje extenso de naturaleza política, social o económica; 2. Objetividad total; 3. Descripciones fidedignas de personas y objetos; 4. Brevedad extrema; audacia y originalidad: evitar los estereotipos; 6. Compasión.

Es precisamente la compasión, la que más extrañe en Tierras de Poniente. Siendo Coetzee uno de mis autores favoritos, esta no es mi obra predilecta. La historia comienza con Eugene Dawn, un escri...more
The publishers promise us Conrad on the book's jacket and they're right. Coetzee is the heir to Conrad's oppressive and bleak studies of the imperialist mindset. Nabakov is another comparison but I haven't read enough of him to agree. Still, Humbert Humbert from Lolita is the progenitor of the twisted and "disgraced" professor David Lurie from Coetzee's excellent 1999 novel, Disgrace.

Dusklands, which is Coetzee's first effort, is a fine place to begin. It is made up of two separate novellas; "Th...more
Tierras de poniente se divide en dos relatos. El primero adopta la forma de un informe psicológico para el ejército de los Estados Unidos durante la guerra de Vietnam. El segundo es una narración en primera persona que recrea la expedición de un antepasado de Coetzee, al que se atribuye el descubrimiento del río Orange y de la jirafa. Ambos textos combinan el falso rigor de la literatura científica y documental con la ironía y la enajenación de personajes implicados en injustificables aberracion...more
Después de leer dos libros de Coetzee que me han parecido más bien flojos, Tierras de poniente y Diario de un mal año, creo que me va a costar intentarlo de nuevo. No me he leído todo lo que ha publicado hasta la fecha, pero tengo la impresión de que en sus últimos libros se repite, como si ya no tuviera nada más que añadir, y eso termina disuadiendo a los lectores. Lejos queda el autor de Esperando a los bárbaros, Vida y época de Michael K., Desgracia, Infancia, Juventud..., en los que demuestr...more
Mariano Hortal
Vaya primera novela que se marcó J. M. Coetzee!! Impresionante es decir poco... "Tierras de poniente" es una novela muy árida donde el autor mediante dos historias nos muestra una reflexión de la culpa, el sufrimiento, la capacidad del hombre para infringir dolor a sus semejantes, el racismo, así como las consecuencias del poder sin límites y la corrupción que origina, son algunas de las constantes de la narrativa coetziana, que se empiezan a ver aquí... y que veremos en su magnífica obra litera...more
The first story (too short for a novella) is surprisingly weak. Okay, Coetzee was just starting out, but even so I was surprised at his (former) fallibility. The novella, The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee, the tale of an 18th century Boersman's trip into the interior South African north, ostensibly to hunt elephants, is as brutal a story as he's ever written. Powerful and disturbing, and done in chiseled prose. Let's just say it's not for everyone.
Johnny D
Both stories were brilliant, but I preferred the first one for its savage juxtaposition of the imperialist mindset with the domestic role of fatherhood. Coetzee has a way of showing believable characters with ugly flaws, and we can't look away. The second story was horrifying, not only because of the violence wrought against the khoikhoi, but for the utter believability that the imperialist mindset was given.

Disturbing, but brilliant.
Serjeant Wildgoose
As with many of the other reviewers, I found the 2nd to be the better of the 2 novellas that form Coetzee's 1st work.

I am a great fan of his later novels and while there are foreshadows of the bleak violence to come, I am delighted that he left behind the complexities of language that scatter this book.

Dusklands is good stuff and it carries much of his promise - but it is a long way short of Coetzee at the height of his powers.
I just finished "The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee." It's the second novella in "Dusklands" by J.M. Coetzee. This has been one of the most wrenching and depressing books that I've read in awhile. It's also probably one of my favorites. There are so many wonderful and tragic things packed into a thin, 100-page book. I'm really blown away by how much Coetzee can pack into short, terse books. This book has left an indelible mark on me.
Lacking the subtlety and layers of depth that a few of his better works are able to create, I failed to find that enigmatic tension and under the surface edge in Dusklands that so often seems to draw me to this author. Still, I enjoyed his far more forceful prose in these two novellas as it mirrored the violence of the subject matter. Waiting for the Barbarians and In the Heart of the Country are still my favorites of his.
Deborah Cater
This was my second book by Coetzee and following on from my reading of 'The Life and Times of Michale K' I found the first story lacking. The second story made up for it with crisp,bluntly descriptive prose.

The central themes of the two stories tie in, as they should when presented this way,but the weaker first story let the book down.

The first novella was great and what you'd expect as a first novel by Coetzee, tbh. Also the narrator reminded me of Herman(n?) in Nabokov's Despair which is always a good thing.

The second novella played with the same ideas about power but I found it a bit underwhelming - it seemed very 'I have just read Heart of Darkness and Voss'-y to me.
Michael Foley
Coetzee is a whirlwind. His first novel serves as critique/criticism of history, imperialism, and colonialism. The passageways that he provides leaves us with as many questions as answers. To say that Coetzee is a brilliant writer of prose is not giving him near enough credit. His storytelling is fresh, compelling, and utterly tragic.
Ben Vigeant
Clearly Coetzee's first book, but that's okay, still powerful just a little rougher around the edges than his later stuff (see Disgrace). The second half feels like the obligatory African author satire of "Heart of Darkness", but the first part is genuinely twisted and stuck in my head for days.
i'm fascinated to see how much coetzee's writing has transformed since this debut. although i believe his later books are much more refined, i very much enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two stories within this volume, and the way their sheer violence is translated into a semi-academic jargon.
Its more 2 short stories, the first of which has some outstanding prose and the description of someone descending into madness is captivating. I found the 2nd part a tad on the dull side but with an arresting conclusion. A good first novel but apart from 20 odd pages not a patch on his later stuff.
Really a 3 and 1/2 star book, but I rounded. The two short stories were fantastic, my only actual complaint has to do with the superfluous addendum at the end of the second, a needless rehash of what was just read. With those disregarded this is probably a five star book
Nana Fredua-Agyeman
Dusklands is one of the first books I read from Coetzee. Like most of his novels, it's very complex, regardless of the pages. The following link leads to my review on my blog.


Two novellas about two evil and disturbed men, active two centuries apart from eachother. The second has the trappings of an historical account. Both display Coetzee's searing talent. You should have to hold a license to write this well.
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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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“I speak to the broken halves of all our selves and tell them to embrace, loving the worst in us equally with the best.” 8 likes
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