Justin Evans's Reviews > Diary of a Bad Year

Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee
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's review
Mar 09, 10

bookshelves: fiction
Read in March, 2010

Lots of things one could criticize about this novel. My knee-jerk response is to say: if you wanted to write a 'Minima Moralia,' there's no reason you can't write one. If you want to write a short story about an asshole, who happens to be the ultimate symbol of our time (Alan, I mean), do that. But don't do both and then throw them together like this. The obvious, and correct, response to that though is to say "well, Mr, Coetzee is a novelist and he can't write opinions like a philosopher can, he has to write novels." Touche. But that shows what the real problem is: Coetzee is no longer willing to bother synthesizing ideas, human relationships and psychology. Is this a brilliant theoretical tactic to undermine the repressive nature of fiction? Or is it straight literary-nihilism, giving up on what fiction can be in the interests of what it happens not to be? I'm inclined to think the latter. DBY is entertaining, the opinions are pretty decent (at least the 'strong' ones are; the 'soft' ones are cliched garbage); and it points to the need for authors to stand up and be counted, instead of worrying themselves into a corner. I hope JMC has it all out of his system, because the post financial crash world needs men like him just as much as apartheid era South Africa did.

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