This book, written by South African author J. M. Coetzee in 1980, tells the story of a magistrate of an outpost of the Empire. The magistrate and theThis book, written by South African author J. M. Coetzee in 1980, tells the story of a magistrate of an outpost of the Empire. The magistrate and the Empire are never given a name. The Empire sends some soldier's or government agents to investigate the barbarians and to stop any insurrection that might be brewing. Their methods are brutal. They learn nothing about the culture. They capture and torture people who probably have no information and they do unspeakable cruelties. The magistrate finds himself confronted with knowledge that he wishes he could avoid, cover his head, stick his head int he sand but he no longer can do so. Later the magistrate is removed from his office, accused of treason and also tortured. In between there is this diversion where he finds one of the female torture victim and there is a quite a bit of pages about his messaging her, oiling her and in general doing some kind of penance to make up for his allowing such cruelty. I do think this story may reflect how it might be to be South African in a country under apartheid which Coetzee was when he wrote this story. He was one of the privileged. This magistrate may be the author. The Empire may be South Africa. There is a lot of sexual content that I think might be significant. It did not read as gratuitous. The magistrate was a womanizer but in the end he barely was able to engage with other people. Another item that is reoccurring are eyes and especially blind eyes. What i got from the book is that if you use torture then you are the barbarian. If you try to be blind to what your country is doing, you still are participating and you are a barbarian. I think Coetzee is very good with his writing though his stories are far from enjoyable pleasure reads. Rating 4.42...more
I read this (and listened to it). My book was translated by Helen Constantine. The book is an epistolary book written by the author in 1782 and is anI read this (and listened to it). My book was translated by Helen Constantine. The book is an epistolary book written by the author in 1782 and is an excellent example of a a pre soap opera book set in France. I didn't care for the characters. It reminded me just a bit of The Charterhouse of Parma. This book was quite scandalous when it was written and it serves as a morality tale. Rating: 4.285...more
I read an audio book narrated by George Guidall. He does a very good job of narrated the story. Franz Kafka's last book and this translated is truer tI read an audio book narrated by George Guidall. He does a very good job of narrated the story. Franz Kafka's last book and this translated is truer to the original condition. Kafka had left instructions to burn all his work. Thank goodness that wasn't done. This is the story of an immigrant that comes to the United States. It is like short little adventures here and there and nothing really goes well in the end. Probably the most reality based book Kafka wrote it was never finished but he thought of it as his American novel. Kafka never visited America. This book starts with a picture of the statue of liberty with a punishing sword and Karl our protagonist is being punished by being sent to America. As an immigrant his own desires are completely disregarded in this book. Everyone poor Karl meets take advantage of him and use him even though Karl is a nice guy and more than willing to help out his acquaintances. There is a sex scene in this book where Karl is basically raped by one of the servants. It is the reason he has been sent to Amerika. It is well done, if only author's could take a hint if they think sex scenes need to be a part of their books. The poor Karl does seem to finally find a home in Oklahama but who knows if it would have lasted if Kafka had finished the book. ...more
Four people die in a house fire and June is the only survivor and really there are no survivors. June leaves in the car which is all she has left andFour people die in a house fire and June is the only survivor and really there are no survivors. June leaves in the car which is all she has left and ends up on the west coast in Washington on the Pacific Ocean. The death of these four people brings a web of connections together. The story is told by alternating perspectives and examines grief, loss and guilt. I enjoy books that examine grief and loss but this really is a book more about guilt and regret. This book has made a lot of lists but hasn't won any prizes yet including the Booker Man long list. It is currently on the International Dublin long list. I listened to the audio which was read by the author. This was a mistake. The author can read, he reads fine but that's just it, he is reading and he has a male voice and it never changes. There are many perspectives, mostly women characters and it is hard to keep track of who is the current narrator because they all sound the same. Still I will have to say I enjoyed the book but the reason it was so enjoyable is that when June drives to Washington she ends up at the Pacific Ocean. I just returned from Washington where this book takes place; Aberdeen, Lake Quinault, Gray's Harbor, Ocean Beaches. What a nice surprise. I had no idea that I had started a book that was set in places I had been. I walked along the shore at Aberdeen, the beach at Ocean Beaches and I stayed at the Lodge on Lake Quinault. Every year I get a calendar delivered to me from the Quinault Indians which have a part in the book. ...more
Remembering Babylon is a powerful book. So much to think about. On the surface, this is a story of pioneer life in Australia. The time period is the 1Remembering Babylon is a powerful book. So much to think about. On the surface, this is a story of pioneer life in Australia. The time period is the 1840s, Gemmy Farley is cast off a boat on the far north of Australia. He is raised by aborigines until the Europeans arrive. He tries to join them. Gemmy doesn't fit anywhere. He is the black white man. This is a story of isolation, language and communication.
I also saw Gemmy as a Christ like figure. Our first picture of him is a man balancing on the rail with his arms flung out and the book ends with that image repeated in memory and the the statement "their need to draw him into their lives--love, again love--overbalanced but not yet falling." Because of Gemmy, people started seeing things differently or became more aware of themselves. "Others felt it but did not know, and the less they knew the more openly hostile they grew; these were the ones you had to watch out for." Even the title of the book lets us know that there is a Biblical reference here.
There is also the theme of colonialism. When immigrants come to a new land they try to make it like the old land instead of learning to live on the land as it has been created. Gemmy is of the land. He has learned to live in this new land. "The land up there was his mother, the only one he had ever known. It belonged to him as he did to it; not by birth but by second birth, a gift..."
Then there is the bees. The bees with their power to communicate. This land is like the Biblical land? A land of milk and honey?
This book was short listed for the Booker Prize and won the inaugural IMPAC Award. Great book. ...more