Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Diary of a Bad Year” as Want to Read:
Diary of a Bad Year
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Diary of a Bad Year

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  4,598 ratings  ·  523 reviews
The latest by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Disgrace is an utterly contemporary work of fiction that addresses the profound unease of countless people in democracies across the world.
Hardcover, 231 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Viking Books (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Diary of a Bad Year, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Dan Dumitrescu I tried both ways, but eventually stick to page by page, because sometimes, there were subtleties jumping from one narrative to the next one.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,598 ratings  ·  523 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
J. M. Coetzee may just be the only living contemporary writer that actually gets better & better with age. (An anomaly if there ever was one...). Against the very paradigms that cemented him as a worthy premiere multi-award recipient celebrity writer in the first place, Coetzee is an astonishing artist. Validation of the writer seems to be Coetzee's most recent and compelling theme. With "Elizabeth Costello" (his magnum opus in my view) we reached the heavens (!). In "Summertime" we delved i ...more
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The novel is written in three continuous strands. First, a series of short essays. What some people call Occasional Pieces. Second, the story of the writer and the lady. Or what could be called the general plot of the book. And third the perspective of the lady, her observations and narration of the events of strand two and sometimes opinions of strand one, of which she has been hired to type up for the aging author.

Almost every page is split into three sections. Each section corresponding to a
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this on the recommendation of a friend, who said that she didn't know anyone else who had read the book and wanted to have someone to talk about it with. I had never heard of it, although JM Coetzee does have several books on The List (not this one, unfortunately, but now I at least want to seek out some more of his work). I also realized, looking over my Goodreads shelves, that this is the first book I've read in 2014 that was written by a man. So take that, patriarchy!

The format of Dia
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
coetzee, one of the great living writers, has lost his faith in narrative... in the power of fictional characters and situations to illuminate some kind of truth as it pertains to real life. Elizabeth Costello was fascinating if only to watch coetzee wrestle with his objections to conventional narrative. Slow Man, on the other hand, was just horrible. his first horrible novel. and Diary of a Bad Year is somewhere in between. its worst crime, perhaps, is a blandness and breeziness just not accept ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was slightly dismayed to find that this is one of those books which manipulates the reader with strange page arrangements and multiple points of view, but I was soon drawn into the story. In fact, it is suspenseful, thought-provoking, and quite interesting. Maybe it is a story about relationships; between men and women, between youth and age, between ideas and emotions, between prose and essay, between reader and author. Well, I'm not the first person to say that Coetzee is a great original wr ...more
Jan 23, 2009 added it
Shelves: reviewed
Read the STOP SMILING review of Diary of a Bad Year:

J. M. Coetzee is a bit of a recluse — he persistently denies interviews and was not present at either of the Booker Prize award ceremonies held in his honor. For a man whose written word is so eloquent, he is famously tight-lipped in person. “A colleague who has worked with him for more than a decade claims to have seen him laugh just once,” said fellow South African Rian Malan in a New Statesmen article. “An acquaintance has attended several d
Bookmarks Magazine

J. M. Coetzee, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003 and is one of only two writers to win the Booker Prize twice, is clearly not content to rest on his laurels. In fact, most critics consider Diary of a Bad Year to be his most ambitious work yet. While the plot itself isn't particularly innovative, the novel's complex narrative structure masterfully weaves multiple voices and viewpoints into a beautifully textured literary counterpoint. There are plenty of layers here: C's biography is

Katrine Solvaag
Jun 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever wonder how not to write a book, well, here’s you’re number one example. I’ll admit the stylistic choice in and of itself is an intriguing concept, but when 60% of the novel is shoving a grumpy old mans perspective on the world down your throat, 20% is an old male writer ogling a younger woman with several bordering racist and sexist comments, and the rest the most degrading and humiliating representation of a woman’s thoughts I’ve ever encountered, there is no doubt in my mind that t ...more
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I believe I previously in these pages called Nobel winner J.M. Coetzee the finest craftsman writing in English today, and Diary of a Bad Year forces me to agree with myself. The book’s structure--and I’m talking physical as well as literary structure here--gives credibility enough in itself. Three parallel voices appear on each page. On the top, the reader finds objective essays on matters political, philosophical, psychological ranging from Guantanamo Bay to music to motherhood. These are by a ...more
Well, that was interesting.

This entire book is told in three distinct voices. The first voice is that of an author's book of opinions on the state of the world. It really does make the book feel both fiction and non-fiction. The second voice is that of the author himself, talking about his "life" outside of the book he is writing - his actual Diary. The third voice is that of his secretary/typist, Anya, who is transcribing the book for the author, who she calls Senor C - her actual Diary.

The boo
Deborah Embury
Apr 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
wtf I’m so pissed I even spent money on this book; I had to read it for class and I wish I had rented it so I could return it and never see it again. I’m not even going to bother giving this book a proper review. I wish it was possible to unread something. Don’t read “Diary of a Bad Year” unless you want to HAVE a bad year. This book is annoying- everything from its characters to the writing style to the word choice and the DAMN FORMATTING. The plot is senseless and horny and rambling and poorly ...more
Apr 17, 2017 rated it liked it
'If the spirit of the university is to survive, something along those lines may have to come into being in countries where tertiary education has been wholly subordinated to business principles. In other words, the real university may have to move into people's homes and grant degrees for which the sole backing will be the names of the scholars who sign the certificates.' p. 36

'Ultimately what a virus wants is to take over the world, that is to say, to take up residence in every warmblooded body
Nicole P
Took me awhile to get into this because of the weird page setting. As the book progresses one sees what Coetzee was trying to do and it adds to the mystery of it all. What grabbed my attention with this book was the essay question: how should a citizen of a modern democracy react to their state's involvement in an immoral war on terror, a war that involves the use of torture? Definitely a good talking point. As for the characters, I took Anya with a pinch of salt. Her transition and change in op ...more
Feb 18, 2018 added it
Shelves: 2018
super weird format! I liked it a lot, it reminded me of the argonauts a bit
J.M. Coetzee was born in South Africa and migrated to Australia in 2002. One of the blurb reviews on this copy is from The Age, and refers to Coetzee as a master “we scarcely deserve.” I have no doubt that “we” refers to “we Australians.” I’m also seeing him speak at the Wheeler Centre next Monday, and their description of the event takes care to mention in the opening paragraph that “we’re lucky to have him living right here in Australia” (exclamation mark implied). I suppose the cultural cring ...more
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was wondering if this was a one star book or a two star book. Decided on two, as you can see, but in reality I'd say it is more like 1.5 stars.

I've read a few of Coetzee's books before, too. And I've liked them. So I bought this on sale, and now, after reading it, I understand why it was on sale in the first place. Maybe about half of it is about an old man writing about an old man writing about politics and humanity and the world in general. And maybe because I'm too young or whatever, I jus
Jeff Koloze
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: college students
J. M. Coetzee’s novel is a challenging read, mainly because three narratives are printed simultaneously on most of the 227 pages. That is, the narrator, who is “losing motor control” (31), expounds his ideas on politics (bashing President George W. Bush and the United States), literary criticism, and Christian principles in the top third of each page. The middle of each page documents his conversation with the woman who types his manuscript. The bottom third records the conversations between the ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Jan 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This work of “fiction” from the great J.M. Coetzee has little to offer admirers of his previous work. Flat, trite, and self-aggrandizing, Diary of a Bad Year feigns to include a story within the ramblings and rants of the main character, Señor C, a seventy-year old recluse writer, who has been asked to submit “strong opinions” to his German publisher for an upcoming book of essays. The pages of Diary of a Bad Year are divided into thirds. The top of each page starts with one of the opinions/essa ...more
Justin Evans
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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, h ...more
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
I have read 2 other books by Coetzee and really liked them both. However this was not very enjoyable at all. Each page is divded into three sections, the first consisting of a serious of articles on the "opinions" by the main character, the second his narration on his interactions with his typist and the last a narration from the point of view of the typist. This unconventional style of narration is not good or bad in itself. However the articles slowly descend into ramblings of an old crankpot. ...more
Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
This novel (dare I call it a novel?!) grew on me rather steadily, and I'd probably add another half-star to the rating if I could. The tripartite structure of most of the book's pages seems mostly gimmicky at first, but I did eventually find the changing nature of the text's invitations and rhythms to be interesting (sometimes I'd read each of the three sections on a single page, then move to the next page and do the same, while other times I'd read the first section of two successive pages and ...more
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: coetzee completionists
JMC continues his recent trend of writing novels that tease the reader that they are autobiography. This one features an aging South African novelist who has moved to Australia, etc etc. This whole dimension of his recent novels I don't find rewarding. He seems committed to exploring the narrator/author identity issue; and while this has proven fertile terrain in other hands, it doesn't seem so in his.

Putting that aside, this does feature an effective use of non-linear narrative -- there are 2 o
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A most unusual book.
Its text is divided into two and later three separate but interrelated narratives on each page. The premise is that an elderly author is writing a book of Strong Opinions and approaches a young Filipina, entirely on the basis of her 'perfect derriere', to assist him with typing. His 'opinions' make up the first of the novel’s narratives and appear at the top of each page. Later these change to Soft Opinions, which he writes in response to her finding the first set boring. Cl
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was first introduced to Coetzee via his novel Disgrace. I acquired it during boot camp-style training in south africa. Maybe it should have put me off, but instead served to pique my curiosity even more about this strange and wonderful place.

I love that, after living here for almost a year and picking us this novel from my local public library, that i understand his point of view, i can visualize ever more clearly what makes Coetzee tick. There were passages, especially toward the end, where i
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
The form and style of this novel have already been described and explored in various reviews, so I won't venture there and make my thoughts redundant. What most excited me about "Diary of a Bad Year" was that space was given to musings, which are so often dismissed as low-brow or irrelevant . The blog is the sphere for musings, and blogs are so prevalent and ubiquitous as to render them uninteresting. What was also fascinating for me was that the central character's short essays (musings) were c ...more
Kris McCracken
An interesting enough experiment, albeit very tricky to read. Ostensibly a collection of political essays and commentaries on Australian politics in the early naughties (although they do shift towards more personal musings in the final third) by an ageing expatriate South African author.

However, underneath this - at the bottom third of each page - we have a running interior monologue (mostly unrelated to the above) of said author.

To complicate matters, underneath THIS - the bottom fifth of each
Some of the "Opinions" are very interesting points of view and really makes you think about various current issues. I do think J M Coetzee should stay away from maths and science as topics, where his ignorance made me cringe a bit.
The fiction part of this uniquely constructed novel is similar to his other novels; the character who seems to be more or less based on himself sums it up perfectly:
"As a young man, I never for a moment allowed myself to doubt that only from a self disengaged from the
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book extremely annoying for the first twenty pages or so. Pages 20-70ish I found it interesting, but bemoaned the fact that the female character can only find herself by being sexy for men. Now, having just finished it, I found it to be both touching and meaningful, not to mention academic-minded. This is a great way of viewing the writer or academic's life. You write (or read) treatises on philosophy and the like (the top text), they are constantly interrupted by daydreams or thoug ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
In what order did you read this book? 3 21 Jan 11, 2013 02:06AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Fringe of Leaves
  • Ancestral Voices
  • Dark Palace
  • The Smell of Apples
  • Two Cheers for Democracy
  • El africano
  • The Impostor
  • Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists
  • Peeling the Onion
  • The Lying Days
  • El balcón en invierno
  • Un minuto antes de la oscuridad
  • Wake in Fright
  • Unfeeling
  • My Revolutions
  • The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott
  • The People's Train
  • Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier
See similar books…
John Maxwell Coetzee is an author and academic from South Africa. He became an Australian citizen in 2006 after relocating there in 2002. 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.
“Music expresses feeling, that is to say, gives shape and habitation to feeling, not in space but in time. To the extent that music has a history that is more than a history of its formal evolution, our feelings must have a history too. Perhaps certain qualities of feeling that found expression in music can be recorded by being notated on paper, have become so remote that we can no longer inhabit them as feelings, can get a grasp of them only after long training in the history and philosophy of music, the philosophical history of music, the history of music as a history of the feeling soul.” 13 likes
“The masters of information have forgotten about poetry, where words may have a meaning quite different from what the lexicon says, where the metaphoric spark is always one jump ahead of the decoding function, where another, unforeseen reading is always possible.” 11 likes
More quotes…