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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  9,032 ratings  ·  623 reviews
With the same electrical intensity of language and insight that he brought to Waiting for the Barbarians , J.M. Coetzee reinvents the story of Robinson Crusoe—and in so doing, directs our attention to the seduction and tyranny of storytelling itself.

In 1720 the eminent man of letters Daniel Foe is approached by Susan Barton, lately a castaway on a desert island. She wan
Paperback, 157 pages
Published 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1986)
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Ana Krstić I think it's important to read Robinson Crusoe prior to reading Foe. Not only because of the deeper understanding of the myth itself but also to be ab…moreI think it's important to read Robinson Crusoe prior to reading Foe. Not only because of the deeper understanding of the myth itself but also to be able to understand the tone of "Foe" represented in its long monologues.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Guga Mikaberidze My impression is that this book is about a woman who couldn't tell the true story about what happened, something involving her daughter, or "ship crus…moreMy impression is that this book is about a woman who couldn't tell the true story about what happened, something involving her daughter, or "ship crush". The memory of it seems to be repressed in Friday, the embodiment of the secret, following her as a shadow. She can not make him talk, nor can she get rid of him.
The very last bit then is the moment of revelation: she forces Friday's mouth open and the stream comes out washing her clean.
This might be just one way of seeing the story though. (less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Foe, J.M. Coetzee

Foe is a 1986 novel by South African-born Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee. Woven around the existing plot of Robinson Crusoe, Foe is written from the perspective of Susan Barton, a castaway who landed on the same island inhabited by "Cruso" and Friday as their adventures were already underway.

Like Robinson Crusoe, it is a frame story, unfolded as Barton's narrative while in England attempting to convince the writer Daniel Foe to help transform her tale into popular fiction. Focus
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
People are extraneous, people are absent... Coetzee is complicated & this short novella is one of his best... except for the ingloriously vapid ending. Hated it! But all the questions posed by J.M. Coetzee, mainly about fiction vs. Biography, & existential conundrums that arise, create a maudlin cloud... the pathos the reader deserves & also craves. ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye

Footprints in the Sand of Time:

Hello. You don't know me. I bought your book online. I don't know your name. I don't even know whether you're dead or alive. You made notations in the margin. I noticed them straight away: some were in pencil, some, later, when I looked, were in pen, although they might have been made by someone else. We started to note similar things and make similar comments. After a while, I started to make fewer comments, because I was content with yours. Ei
Sidharth Vardhan
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing

"We must make Friday's silence speak, as well as the silence surrounding Friday."

Daniel Defoe /Daniel Foe's novel Robinson Crusoe was Coetzee's childhood favorite novel. At first, he had thought it was a memoir of the title character. In fact, Foe published the book as an account of a real castaway. The realization that the character was fictional, this intermixing of real and fictional, had a huge impact on him. Besides this novel, Coetzee also visited the Robinson Crusoe in the short story
Steven Godin
It seems a lifetime ago that I read Robinson Crusoe and I can hardly remember anything from it other than knowing it's obvious storyline of a guy being marooned on an island. I wondered whether or not it would make any difference in regards to reading Foe. In the end it didn't really matter, as I found this messy re-working not that special anyway. Of the four Coetzee novels I've now read, Foe I found to be the weakest. It's a clever idea, giving the classic a deconstructionist turn by adding ne ...more
Connie G
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
In Foe, Susan Barton is set adrift in a rowboat after a mutiny on a ship sailing from South America to Lisbon. She lands on an island where Cruso and Friday had been cast away years ago. In Coetzee's retelling of the Robinson Crusoe tale, Cruso is content with his simple life on the island. Friday has been transformed from a Caribbean to a black African whose tongue had been cut out by slave owners. The three castaways are rescued after Susan has spent one year on the island, but Cruso dies on h ...more
Chris Holmes
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
In recent readings of Coetzee's Defoe-pastiche, I have become facinated with the figure of Friday's "empty" mouth. Obviously the open-O, the unvoiced scream, the signs arranged on the beach as evidence of Friday's voice as it is both silenced and withheld, speaks to the trope of subaltern. That said, I believe Coetzee is more interested in our assumption that Friday is without a speech organ, tongue-less. Recall that the only evidence of this tonguelessness comes from the travel narrative that C ...more
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is sheer poetry. The language, the pacing, the images - a feast for the mind!
As I see it Coetzee is the most important writer of our times. It is almost ridiculous to praise his style, as the way he formulates the questions and ideas of his writing is so perfectly self-contained and self-explanatory. Unaffected simplicity and clarity translate into utmost sophistication.
At the centre of his work lies the idea of compassion: for animals, for the ones left behind by society, for the crip
Fancy being driven to pictures.

When I read a novel, I'm looking for this:

sign post this way

and this:

sign post one way

with big hints along the way like:

sign post real world
and this:

sign post truth lie

I thought I was doing fine with this Coetzee I found in Leiden recently. There's a woman and she is on a desert island for a while and then she's rescued and she's bogged down with Man Friday and Daniel Defoe's in it writing her story and I thought I got it. But I couldn't help feeling now and again like:

Questions and Answers signpost

and trying to figure it all out made things worse.

sign post lost

Frankly, in the end
Foe reminds me more of Robert Coover's multilayered, metafictional Spanking the Maid than of Robinson Crusoe. That book was about spanking, and this book is about getting ravished. But what's it really about, you ask, and I'm like ugh, isn't "multilayered and metafictional" enough? Fine, god. I'll mark serious spoilers but we'll discuss general plot points, so heads up.

On the first layer: Susan Barton is marooned on an island already inhabited by two other castaways. When she is rescued, she tri
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
It is difficult to describe. The quality of the writing is great, the characters are good and sometimes the book grips you.

There are even moments that reminded me of Animal Man by Grant Morrison, but when I finished the book it was.. And???

It could be a **, it could be a ****... Let's rate it with a ***.

Finally, I have to say that the character of Susan Barton is probably one of the most powerful female characters that I have met.
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the original Crusoe
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I read this a long time ago and have only just got round to thinking about a review now. Now is me sitting in front a netbook with a large glass of red wine, the work phone switched off (praise all your gods, it is the weekend) and a pile of salted cashew nuts to hand. You could cast me adrift on a desert island now, with no hope of redemption and as long as I could take the wine and the nuts (I'll leave the works phone, thanks) then I probably wouldn't utter so much as a squeak of protest.

Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
J.M. Coetzee's 1986 novel FOE is a retelling of ROBINSON CRUSOE that uses Daniel Defoe's well-known story as a basis for a bitter commentary on colonialism. To really get anything out of Coetzee's novel, you'll need to read ROBINSON CRUSOE first. The Penguin Popular Classics edition is an inexpensive way to read that important work.

As FOE opens, we are introduced to Susan Barton, an Englishwoman returning from Brazil who is set adrift on the seas by mutineers. She washes up on an island populate
Jason Coleman
Apr 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: greatest-hits
It's not hard to see what drew Coetzee to the Cruso myth. Stranded on an austere patch of land with only a black servant to keep you company: reminds me an awful lot of the author's native South Africa. The long first section of the book, in which Susan Barton washes ashore on Cruso's island, is a tour-de-force, one of the best sustained pieces of writing Coetzee's ever done. But the shift to England, where Susan enlists Daniel Defoe to write her story, comes along with endless ruminations on th ...more
Atmospheric and thought-provoking, but ultimately too reticent to be either satisfying or fully engaging.

Foe is a consciously literary novel. The first section is exquisitely rendered, but as soon as the metafiction really kicks in, I found it obtrusive. The exploration of the blurred lines between fiction and reality, power and language, Friday’s story and the notion of double consciousness (and of being a stranger everywhere, even his own homeland, were he to return) is fascinating – it’s a sh
Emily M
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tricky story of narrative power and silence.

Susan Barton is the third, unknown castaway on Crusoe's island, and her account is quite different, both from Cruso's as rendered here, and from the eventual novel that Daniel Defoe will pen. None of these narratives, as far as I can tell, have much basis in history. Defoe seems to have been inspired by the story of marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk, but his story does not mirror any of the fictional counterparts.

Meanwhile, Friday has been changed fr
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
In the spirit of Foe, a story about this book... I bought this book at a recent $5 A Bag book sale at the library. Having walked away with 4 bags of books, it seemed like a pretty successful sale in and of itself. However, fate intervenes (dun dun DUN) and, picking it up to read tonight, I see a very familiar name scrawled in the front cover, a date/locale, and a seal imprinted on the title page. None other than the name of my favorite teacher back in high school and the date of my graduation. A ...more
Oct 11, 2012 rated it liked it
This review will overflow with cliché. Such is the sum of my experience. Fox is a meditation on silence. Coetzee explores the natural aspects of such. The sea and wilderness yield no ready wisdom. Such doesn’t communicate in our jejune terms.

There is also an algebra of silence by design. It is a poetry of omissions. It is the fruit of doubt and a coveted rank of humility. The narrative currents of our lives are larded with the silence, we adorn them with caprice and detail. Coetzee intervenes in
Eddie Clarke
This completes my detoxification of Robinson Crusoe. Foe is Coetzee’s elegant, imaginative examination of Defoe’s classic. Its not a retelling or a sequel - it recreates a new dish from the same ingredients. Crusoe (Cruso here) dies early on & Coetzee introduces a woman character as the lead and Defoe himself (under his ‘real’ name, Foe). The cleverest conceit of all is that Friday’s role is greatly expanded, but as in the original, he remains completely mute. Coetzee makes this muteness speak v ...more
Edgar Trevizo
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even more misterious and deep than the first two times I read it. In spite of the slow reading, the following of the clues, the theories built over its passages, themes, characters, I still don't know what is really happening there. What is this ship? (Costello?) asks the dead body of Viernes. Perhaps it doesn't matter. What matters here is that this is a truly infinite book, an immortal one. One can read it over and over again and it will never lose a bit of interest, beauty, misteriousness and ...more
JUNE 2019 - reread
In FOE we witness an author who cheats the cards before our eyes with his innate ability to retell stories, adapt them and give them new meaning. Coetzee challenged one of the most widely published books in history, Daniel DeFoe’s “The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe” by transforming the famed author DeFoe into an antagonist Foe, Crusoe into Cruso (without the e), included a castaway woman, Susan Barton (based on the heroine of DeFoe’s ROXANA) and a m
Quinn Slobodian
Oct 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Coetzee's sometimes strained exercise here is to write together the narratives of Daniel Defoe's two major novels, Pamela and Robinson Crusoe. Once again, the central undertaking is Coetzee's straining to hear the voice of the subaltern through his characters and once again concluding with the best-solution-possible as some complicated ritual of bodily compassion and performative abjection. As the characters of The Darjeeling Limited need a drowned Indian boy to make their trip meaningful, Coetz ...more
Kyle Turpin
36 pages into it and I started skimming (due to the vapidness of it) so fast I read the last 100 pages in 10 minutes.
A summary:
- Susan is shipwrecked
- She tells Cruso to do something
- They're rescued
- She wants her book to be published
- Foe disappears
- Susan tells her daughter she isn't her daughter (or something)
- Foe reappears
- Something happens
- Lots of talking
Still looking for a tangible plot that I'm starting to believe doesn't exist
Dec 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Easily one of the worst books I have ever read. Simplistic, pseudo-intellectual mental masturbation. Awful.
This is a parallel novel to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Yet the parallel lines are drawn free handed and with much liberty. Coetzee steps boldly in the story - unafraid that we might see him. He dares us to see him. Dares us to question his tale. He'll tell us the story he wants us to hear. Yeah, so there is a "real" story. There's got to be more to it. You know there is something that Susan is not sharing. And Friday ain't telling us anything. Robinson Crusoe is dead - so what choice does h ...more
Christian Schwoerke
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
What is the inspiration for a story? Whose story is it? What is real? How do facts become fictions? What is fact?

All of these questions lie at the back of Foe, ostensibly the story of a woman who was marooned on an island where the "real" Robinson Cruso and his man Friday already had established themselves for many years.

Once rescued and brought back to England, she wants to tell/sell her story, and she chooses the hack Daniel Foe (Defoe was born Foe). He is concerned about making it a popular b
I assume this book would be studied in High Schools or Unis. The writing of a Nobel prize winner is typically full of hidden meanings, styles and unique structures. This book has these and more.
Susan Barton is castaway on a remote island and finds herself with Friday and Cruso. They are rescued, Cruso dies and Barton tries to get the author Daniel Foe to wrote her (or Cruso's stories).
Told in four parts as a story, then as a series of letters, then a more standard narrative and lastly in a short
I enjoyed the first part of this book (set on the deserted island) much more than the rest of it (set in England), but I think I’m just in a kind of nature-mood at the moment. Overall I was underwhelmed. The metafiction was too much for me. However, I was very interested in Friday as a character, and the ideas about silence and power.
Neal Adolph
I turn the bottom corners up when I read a passage that is particularly good. When I read Coetzee's books, many pages are turned up. There are few writers that are as masterful in crafting language as he is. His awareness of voice, timbre, and mood is almost matchless in modern writers. And every word is precisely selected. You are aware of this when you read his work generally; certainly aware of it when you read this book as well.

None of his books are easy. This is another thing to note about
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UPEP Reading Grou...: Week 1: Foe (inspired by Robinson Crusoe) 1 1 Jun 06, 2019 10:24PM  
What two books are you reading at once? 1 11 Mar 11, 2015 08:08PM  
La Stamberga dei ...: Foe di J.M. Coetzee 1 7 Apr 29, 2013 07:51AM  

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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.

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