Chris's Reviews > Waiting for the Barbarians

Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
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's review
Jul 18, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: books-i-d-like-to-teach
Read in July, 2010

"[A:]ll creatures come into the world bringing with them a memory of justice" Coetzee writes on page 139 of this fantastic but wrenching little novel. If he's to be believed, then we are all forced to not only heed the innate call to practice justice his narrator hears but to consider the minds of those who ignore that call. Coetzee's novel about an Empire failing to defeat a "barbarian" enemy it can neither locate or identify explores a great number of topics readers today will find suspiciously relevant, among them: torture, paranoia, "otherness," the nature of power, the weakness of the human body, and the indomitable will of the human being to survive despite...well, despite everything. It's a rich but slight book and one I'd love to teach, if only to force myself into the closer reading (i.e. with a pen in hand) this book clearly deserves.

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