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Summertime (Scenes from Provincial Life #3)

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  4,147 Ratings  ·  418 Reviews
A rich, funny, and deeply affecting autobiographical new novel from one of the world's greatest living writers.

A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on a period in the seventies when, the biographer senses, Coetzee was 'finding his feet as a writer'. He embarks on a series of interviews with people who were i
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 4th 2010 by Vintage Books (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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late at night, absent people or drink, when it rages out in furnace fear, i think of you and whether it be simply that 1. misery loves company or 2. even though we do, indeed, die alone you remind me that we all do it so at least we're all connected in our aloneness -- your life and your words in some tiny tiny tiny way lessen the burden of existence. as with my dog, i know that you will most likely die long before i do and it kind of makes me want to eat the shotgun knowing i'll be living in a ...more
Sep 14, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The halo effect perfected to exquisite levels in "Elizabeth Costello" is once again employed to a similar effect. This time, the writer's own persona is the protagonist-non grata. What is left behind is what's compiled in this magnificent (but flawed) work-- another dynamite narrative by another dynamite author, about racism in latter-20th century South Africa. In this instance, people (women, mostly) are interviewed, their experience with John Coetzee explored. These tales are tragicomic, gorge ...more
Mar 04, 2010 Isabelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has been a very long time since I read something that original... The premise of the book is so unusually incisive, so creative in itself... Coetzee writes his own biography, post his fictive death, as strung together through his notebooks and the interviews of some of his contemporaries.
Behind the dry humor and subtle self-deprecation, there are some very serious underlying themes, mostly pertaining to life in South Africa in the 70's, Afrikaners, natives, Apartheid etc... but also dealing w
What an odd book. The author writes it as though he is someone else writing his biography after his death. Parts of it were very strange and parts of it were hard to understand. As someone who was living in South Africa in the late 70's I really enjoyed the African references and being able to practice the little Afrikaans I still remember. Apart from that though I guess I was not really enamoured of the book although I feel encouraged to maybe try another of his books in the near future.
Vestal McIntyre
After Boyhood and Youth, I expected another searing self-portrait told in calm and beautifully measured third-person. What I got is autobiography in quite a revolutionary form: the women who knew Coetzee in his early thirties are interviewed about the now-dead author. Utterly engaging, filled with awkward intimacy and painful slip-ups, Summertime is the best book in the trilogy, the best book I've read in a year.

Another interesting aspect of the book: so many "greats" have written their portrait
Mar 28, 2014 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I normally write a review the day after I've finished a book, long enough to coalesce my thoughts, short enough for it not to feel nagging. Because I read this for a group read and felt so lukewarm (is that an oxymoron?) about it, I put off the review, hoping I would get more out of the book after the discussion. That didn't happen.

I don't usually say 'how' I wish a book to be, as I don't usually think it's my place as reader to do so; but I can't help feeling with this one that I wish Coetzee h
Aug 03, 2012 J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apparently this is the third of a type of trilogy. I did not know that. I bought it because it was short. Sorry, John. I was on vacation at the beach. It was called Summertime. It was available in paperback and I was low on cash. What I got when I began to read was infinitely more. There are some books that affect us so deeply the $15.00 price seems ludicrous.

Admittedly, I am a lousy fan. There are few authors whose complete works I’ve read, no matter how much I admire their writing. Fewer stil
Jan 01, 2016 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian, own-copy
This novel started off with a lot of promise, but as it progressed the story disintegrated and became very piecemeal and lacking as a complete narrative.

The premise of telling the biography of the fictional(?) novelist John Coetzee from different perspective was an interesting one, but from my perspective was in the end unsuccessful and confusing, in particular the section told from Adriana's perspective.

I'm still not sure hpw much of the novel is fiction or fact, perhaps this is the feeling tha
Jason Coleman
Feb 26, 2010 Jason Coleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greatest-hits
Coetzee's Scenes from a Provincial Life is turning into one of the weirdest memoir projects ever. Apart from his decision to mix fiction with fact, and the obvious confusion over what is true and what isn't, there is also the public-humiliation aspect of these books. Coetzee really knows how to take himself down a peg: in this latest installment he can't fix a car, can't dance, can't cook, is a poor lover (and, worse, a strange one), has a messy house, a bad haircut, and persists in a teaching c ...more
Apr 07, 2015 ΠανωςΚ rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
«Καθηλωτικό, αστείο, συγκινητικό, γεμάτο ζωή» είναι το σχόλιο του Observer που φιγουράρει στο εξώφυλλο. Κι εγώ έκλαιγα. Ποτάμι -όχι του Θεοδωράκη- τα δάκρυα. Από το ασταμάτητο χασμουρητό. Φιλάρεσκο μυθιστόρημα: ένας συγγραφέας, που δεν βλέπει πέρα από τη μύτη του, γράφει ένα μυθιστόρημα για έναν τύπο που γράφει τη βιογραφία του νεκρού πλέον συγγραφέως. Δηλαδή, για να μη φαίνεται ότι περιαυτολογεί, εφευρίσκει έναν τύπο να μιλάει για τον Κουτσί όπως θα μίλαγε ο Κουτσί αν ήθελε και καλά να κάνει σκ ...more
Review 1 of 1: Stephanie

You've had the chance to read the book 'Summertime.' What did you think of it?

Honestly, not much. I think it either went totally over my head or I just didn't like the anemic tone. And I didn't feel that the "inventive" storytelling worked. The author was trying to give an objective viewpoint about his life as a young man (warts and all) in South Africa in the 70s, but it's not objective and it's not, to me, great writing.

He is, in fact, a Nobel prize winner in literature
Oct 06, 2012 Kristen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Mr. Coetzee, how many more books will it take to forgive yourself the original sin of your birth?

(Man, do I love short books, I'm incredibly fucking lazy, just spit it out already. Coetzee understands that!)
Nov 23, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest: I haven't cared much for Coetzee's work in the last ten years or so. I've been of the opinion that he peaked with Disgrace; his recent novels have been filled with intrusive and barely-veiled author surrogates (especially Elizabeth Costello) who tend to derail an otherwise engrossing narrative.

It was a pleasure, then, to discover that Coetzee has taken that conceit and turned it on it's head here. By writing about his life as being examined by a hagiographic biographer, Coetzee
Mar 16, 2013 Robert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Summertime by J.M. Coetzee is labeled "fiction," not "a novel," or "a collection of autobiographical investigations disguised as a story cycle," or some other generic propositon. Just "fiction."

Ok, it goes this way: there is a biographer, an academic, who goes through the deceased John Coetzee's notebooks and focuses a lot of effort on five extended interviews with four women and one man who were important in Coetzee's life. Two of the women were sexually involved with him; one was a cousin; on
Jul 03, 2014 Liza marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
Ugggggghhhh! Picked this up because I found it on the shelf at the library when I didn't have any holds waiting for me, and I keep on thinking about fucking Disgrace, and thought maybe this one would be relevant for the season. Sort of forgot how much I basically hate this guy, except (maybe) for Elizabeth Costello, which even though it's another platform for this guy's shitty moralizing at least is ostensibly about a lady. Also in some weird way I think he gave me the idea to become a librarian ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a writer makes himself the subject of a biography written by a fictitious biographer, and when those who are being interviewed for the record are mainly the women in his life, both lovers and despisers, all of whom did not think much of him as a man, one wonders whether the writer is building a monument to himself or placing himself under the microscope of public scrutiny. But given that this book is of the writer’s creation, one also wonders whether the fault lines on display are carefully ...more
I'm moving this to "read" even though I stopped a little over halfway and skimmed a little bit of the end. I have no desire to ever read the rest of this book nor anything else by the author.

I thought at first it would be about the political situation in south africa, since it starts off talking about that, but it quickly devolves into several encounters of the author with other people, mostly women, who all find him unappealing, unattractive, aloof, and perhaps a touch autistic. It's about him
Jul 30, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
J.M. Coetzee's new novel is not just an interesting conceit. It is a luminous, complicated picture of the life of an artist and writer. But let's start with conceit, which is fun and intriguing: A biographer is writing the biography of the late J.M. Coetzee. This isn't that biography; rather it's notes from interviews the biographer collected from a handful of people who knew Coetzee, mostly women who held some kind of romantic interest for him, discussing their relationship and the kind of man ...more
James Murphy
Mar 13, 2014 James Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago I read in quick succession Coetzee's 2 volumes of memoir, Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life and Youth. The 2d covers his young manhood in England. Knowing he'd spent some time in the U. S. after leaving the U. K., I'd looked forward to the next installment. Summertime is both that and yet not that. It's another of his novels in which he himself is a character. And it concerns itself with continuing the story of Coetzee's life. The premise is that after Coetzee's death a biog ...more
Carl Rollyson
Aug 11, 2012 Carl Rollyson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Novelists enjoy taking revenge on biographers. A typical example of this phenomenon is William Golding’s The Paper Men (1984), in which a biographer is featured as a snoop digging through his subject’s kitchen pail. Only in rare instances do biographers not come off as second-raters and sensationalists, as in Bernard Malamud’s Dubin’s Lives (1979). But no writer of distinction has definitively challenged the line Henry James laid down in The Aspern Papers (1888), where the biographer is dismisse ...more
This curious, sly and rather ruthless quasi-autobiography is the 3rd volume of Scenes From a Provincial life. The purist in me almost put it away, for I have not read these. But it was the first day after the summer solstice, and that little synchronicity nailed it. I went ahead and immediately was pulled in to South Africa, the dusty streets,the random violence,the winding down of a rotten system and Nelson Mandela still in prison.

But this is not a straightforward story to illustrate the great
Amrita Bindukalpa
As I started reading this book I googled J.M.Coetzee. He came up as one of the most celebrated author in anglosphere. I was living under a rock to have never ever heard of this two times booker winner and Nobel laureate .

This book is supposed to be a fictional autobiography . That seems like an oxymoron does nt it? Well that is just the beginning of the interesting part. The author has written his story as interviews by his biographer with important people in his life. So what he has written a
Geoffrey Fox
Oct 03, 2012 Geoffrey Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this his third fictional autobiography, Coetzee portrays the early adulthood of a man very much like himself — with even the same name, "John Coetzee" — with similar origins and history (born into an English-speaking Afrikaner family near Capetown, returned to South Africa after some years abroad including the US, later to become a well-known writer). However this fictional John Coetzee is now dead, and what we learn about this period of his life, in his 30s and before he achieved fame as a w ...more
Jan 19, 2010 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Another mindbender from JMC. In 266 pages he has foiled his inevitable biographers, had some fun and made many salient points about many things including writing, politcs and the human condition.

Who else would have himself described as not homosexual, but still "soft," "not a man," "tepid" and "not made for the company of women?" Not to mention "autistic" in bed. Another interesting description of the early writer: "Without being a Dionysian himself, he approved in principle of Diony
Dec 20, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Summertime, and the living ain't easy. Confusion and alienation. Ideals and realities. Politics and history in racist South Africa and in the abstract.The need to escape the immeasurable distances between humans, in intelligence, understanding and taste. Jobs, traps, prisons, desires, deceptions, doom, art, and maybe glory or at least, release. A great writer looks at his work, his life and his character and tries to give a feeling of who he is and what he has done, and how others may have seen ...more
Greg Metcalf
Sep 07, 2013 Greg Metcalf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After glancing at the front cover, I opened this book up to the inside flap and read that it was about a biographer researching Coetzee's life. I almost put it back, but then I flipped back to the front where I thought I'd read it was fiction. Yes, JM Coetzee wrote a fictional book about someone researching his life after he was dead. Pretty gutsy, but I figured it would be awesome. And it was. The only slightly bad thing about this book, written in a series of conversations between the biograph ...more
Aug 31, 2013 Xan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Creo que no leeré más libros de este autor. El distanciamiento y el autodesprecio que impregnan estas memorias fabuladas me producen hastío, me aburren. Si esa era la imagen que quería dejar de si para la posteridad es su eleción, pero le sobraban trescientas páginas. Un hombre incapaz para relacionarse con los demás, especialmente con las mujeres, debido a los traumas de su educación bajo un régimen opresivo y castrador de toda emoción, puede ser un maravilloso escritor pero tan solo me provoca ...more
Rosalind Minett
I never thought I'd be giving Coetzee, one author who really impresses me, a 3 star review. However, this reflects my enjoyment level. I thought the device of the journalist writer very irritating. It should have worked, and it didn't. His voice and presence, even though intended to be minor, just didn't convince. I didn't believe he was there, only that Coetzee was resorting to that voice to show the reader what was going on.

I felt an embarrassed admiration for the irony of detailing the life o
Maybe more like 3.5 stars. This so-called fictional autobiography, while well-written, seems somewhat self-indulgent and coy. I'd rather Coetzee actually wrote about himself, or wrote "straight" fiction.
Soma Pradhan
1. I hope that in the afterlife we will get a chance each of us to say our sorries to people we hv wronged.
2. Well, that is what you risk when you fall in love. You risk losing your dignity.
3. perhaps, but i am a difficult person to live with.
The narrator is the subject and writes his own autobiography through the 5 or 6 ladies, and most of them have a love hate relationship. There is confusion as to what is real and what is just a fantasy. In spite of all odds , u will still enjoy the book whic
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Coetzee's marriage 3 9 Apr 16, 2016 12:48PM  
Is Summertime a worthy memoir-fiction of the writer Coetzee? 3 46 Jan 09, 2014 10:45PM  
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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)
  • Boyhood
  • Youth (Scenes from Provincial Life #2)

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“A book should be an axe to chop open the frozen sea inside us.” 86 likes
“Perhaps; but I am a difficult person to live with. My difficulty consists in not wanting to live with other people.” 47 likes
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