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Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life

(Scenes from Provincial Life #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  4,383 ratings  ·  309 reviews
Coetzee grew up in a new development north of Cape Town, tormented by guilt and fear. With a father he despised, and a mother he both adored and resented, he led a double life—the brilliant and well-behaved student at school, the princely despot at home, always terrified of losing his mother's love. His first encounters with literature, the awakenings of sexual desire, and ...more
Paperback, 166 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published September 1997)
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S. Barberá El modo en que descubre la vida en Sudáfrica es revelador hasta el punto de hacerte sentir que leer estas memorias de Coetzee ayudan sin duda a una me…moreEl modo en que descubre la vida en Sudáfrica es revelador hasta el punto de hacerte sentir que leer estas memorias de Coetzee ayudan sin duda a una mejor comprensión de su obra. No en vano el segundo tomo de las memorias (“Juventud”) arranca con la célebre cita de Goethe: “Wer den Dichter Will verstehen, muss in Dichters Lande gehen”. Si verdaderamente queremos comprender la obra de un autor, es imprescindible conocer su país, su cultura, la multiciplicidad de paradojas y contradicciones que atraviesan a la sociedad sudafricana (y con esto no digo que otras sociedades no se vean atrapadas en la misma marisma de ideas que luchan entre ellas). Sólo desde el conocimiento podemos aspirar a entender la visión del mundo y de la literatura que tiene Coetzee. (less)

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Jan 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Inside the front cover of Coetzee's Boyhood, in the police line-up of ejaculatory blurbs -- which I tend to find outrageously embarrassing -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is alleged to have called the book 'a liturgy of wisdom.' (Like me, you probably have a hunch that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the pimply-faced geek in school who never had a date and spent his lunch hour doing geometric proofs with the head of the math department.) Newsday, meanwhile, says it's comprised of 'pithy ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I find it amazing that there can be so much content in a 166-page book, and that the result is so spellbinding and perfect. J.M. Coetzee's "Boyhood: scenes from provincial life" is a portrait of the author as a 10-year-old boy growing up in South Africa. I have never read a more insightful analysis of a child's thinking and emerging personality; well, it is hard to find this level of psychological profundity in any writing. At the same time, the novel gives an amazingly rich and deep depiction o ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit
Make note to learn something about South African history and culture. It does the reader no favours to be as ignorant as I while reading this.

Underline note of some years ago to read Disgrace. Watched twice, but still not read. Boyhood has given me an idea as to how one might understand the odd scenario of that book, woman raped by black men and consequently pregnant, determines to become the 3rd wife of one of the rapists. Perhaps this will afford her some degree of safety and the possibility o
Ravi Gangwani
Coetzee, for me is really an angel. He knows how to touch the heart. Most of the sections of the book were so absorbing that I felt the need to pause for a moment to breath.

His tender heart, Summer Vacations on farms, money crisis of childhood, love for books, sport fanaticism, bully kids in school, attention on wealthy kids in school, scout guiding, differences between Catholics and Jews, mother's love and her sacrifices for him, fantasies during school days for sex and how babies come, the bl
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Everything I read from Coetzee has a profound impact on me. His words are so cutting, direct, affective, sincere, clear and concise. His ability to draw me in, paint a picture and transport me to wherever and whatever he is writing about astounds me. This is an autobiographical work with Coetzee himself as the narrator, referring to himself in the book as "he". I really like this approach because he is telling the reader about his life and the experiences that formed the man that he is today but ...more
Uniquely written fictional autobiography of Coetzee in Primary School. He uses third person, present tense and ,as he does in Youth, an unnamed narrator. At times each paragraph seemed to be another memory loosely bound within the Chapter's purpose.
This is a boy of softness, aware of his weaknesses and failures, who seethes against a failed father and adores his mother who keeps the family going. He sees himself as an outsider, confused with the actions of adults, fearful of having his own actio
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating 4.2/5

Every Coetzee is a revelation to me. It is just so pure in its abundance and simplicity, as it is grey and intense. From Disgrace to Summertime to Boyhood, his accounts are evocative, to say the least. A sadness engulfs the reader and stays put.
This story is the account of his boyhood in provincial South Africa, where politics and religions and school life overlapped, leading to sardonic results. It makes for a quick read.
David Schaafsma
Boyhood is the name of a film by Richard Linklater that most people feel is one of the best of this past year, and I haven't seen it yet. It is not based on this memoir, which I guess might be classified as creative nonfiction, too, because it is written in the third person. It's the first of three (so far) in a series of growing up memoirs, followed by Youth and Summerime, both of which I purchased in hardcover just as they came out and have been gathering dust on my shelf ever almost ever sinc ...more
Dec 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These "scenes from provincial life" far exceeded my expectations. JMC has written well about his youth and various lasting images of his youth. especially the racial diversity of his home that breeds deep racism even in early ages where the Afrikaans speak funny but view all whites of the boy's background as untrusted Jews. There is a piercing discussion of the boy's parents. His mother runs the house and he is thankful for this fact. His father is second-rate at all he does and finds various ve ...more
Jun 12, 2011 rated it liked it
My first Coetzee; I take it you're supposed to start with Waiting for the Barbarians or Michael K., but I just pulled this off our shelf (apparently C found it abandoned on the sidewalk a few years back, which is mildly poetic considering how this ends). It's in the form of a childhood memoir, but the nostalgia is not moist-eyed. It's a look back at a period in his early adolescent when his sense of separate selfhood developed, when he emerged to be something more than a target of his mother's a ...more
Jaclyn Woods
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-in-print
I love the writing of J.M. Coetzee. He writes about a life I can relate to and topics that interest me, mainly the experiences of different people in South Africa, especially regarding issues such as race, culture and 'otherness', as well as personal development.

In this short book Coetzee writes about what he knows, as he tells the story of his own childhood growing up in a poor family during apartheid in South Africa, in a time where fathers were feared and liberal thinking frowned upon. I foun
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A review of one of Coetzee's novel on the cover of this book says something to the effect that Coetzee will never comfort, but he will always tell the truth. I've read Coetzee as a study of shame and always attached that to the history of South Africa. This memoir, Boyhood, with unflinching honesty takes us into Coetzee's home, where shame is more personal and less (but not completely a-)political. Coetzee, here and in his novels demands an honest and unflinching eye, a willingness to bear witne ...more
Alejandro Teruel
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficción, usb
A massive slab of my childhood was spent as an outsider in the UK, a quarter of a century after Coetzee´s childhood in South Africa, yet so much of his world resembles so much of mine, the affinity is startling and unsettling: the alienness of the adult world, the brittle childish sense of solipsism, a deep, unutterable love of a place in nature, the remote otherness of other children, the ambivalent need to distance feelings, the yearning to shine, the addiction to reading, the treacherous vici ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The central boyhood of Boyhood is defined largely by those twin poles, apprehension and excitement, that seem to be the elemental tenants of childhood (though perhaps this is just because Coetzee so skillfully conveys the specific as to seem universal, and because these specifics are so close to the particulars of my own life). Both fall under the umbrella of curiosity, skewed by anticipation of either good or ill, and of curiosity’s cousin confusion. It’s one of the mysteries of childhood that ...more
My knowledge about South Africa, Apartheid and Afrikaans are consisted of a little bit of Nelson Mandela, District 9 movie and Charlize Theron speaking Afrikaans on youtube, respectively. Reading Coetzee is a news to me and my ignorance has been weakened a bit more.

I have read somewhere that Coetzee is quite a silent person. During a meeting he didn’t talk a word, he's way too disciplined, he cycles to be healthy, barely smiles, he hasn't even gone to get a prize he won and he never eats meat, n
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Boyhood is a short novel on Coetzee's youth, growing up in the Western Cape. Beautifully written, it's very gripping, but it took me a while to grasp the point of the novel.
As with most biographies, there's no real story arc, no real plot, but that's not the point. Coetzee shows how he, as a boy, struggled with the meaning of his being, questioning everything and not understanding anything.
On the last page of the book, Coetzee makes a small revelation on his reasons for writing: "He alone is l
Daniel Kukwa
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-lit
This book veers between fascinating & terrifying. Fascinating because the voice of the young boy in question(possibly an autobiography of the author) is so strong, so vivid, and so evocative, that it may very well be the most realistic presentation of a young boy in all modern fiction. However, it’s also terrifying in the depiction of the boy’s hates, loathings, secrets, and opinions, especially towards his mother. Coetzee gives us a character with the perceptiveness of an adult, trapped in the ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Coetzee is a man of few words - he once said that he never describes a sofa in a room unless someone is actually going to sit on it - but he does more with those few words than almost any of his more verbose contemporaries. For this he's won two Booker Prizes and the Nobel Prize as well. This novel is the first part of a very thinly-disguised autobiography, a fascinating portrait of growing up relatively poor in rural South Africa while also not identifying with the Afrikaans majority despite hi ...more
Liz Estrada
May 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
Sorry, but just couldn't get into the rhythm (or lack thereof ) of this novel. Found the writing bland and jagged and the third person narration dull and insipid. Very disappointed for it had come highly recommended. Have two other of his books and will still give them a try and hope the author uses a different writing style, more to my liking.
Sleeping with Ghosts
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
12 Years on the making for the movie. All the lifetime of a young boy, since when he was a child until he grows up and went to the university.

Film: Boyhood (2014) with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.
Javier de la Morena
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"There is another first memory, one that he trusts more fully but would never repeat, certainly not to Greenberg and Goldstein, who would trumpet it around the school and turn him into a laughing stock.

He is sitting beside his mother in a bus. It must be cold, for he is wearing red woollen leggings and a woollen cap with a bobble. The engine of the bus labours; they are ascending the wild and desolate Swartberg Pass.

In his hand is a sweet-wrapper. He holds the wrapper out of the window, which is
James Hartley
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this.
I approached wearily as I loved Disgrace but struggled to like Waiting for the Barbarians.
This is Coetzee´s very idiosyncratic biography of his life growing up in South Africa in the middle of the last century. Throughout the book Coetzee is "he" or "him" and, although mannered, this works.
Hard to really pick bits out - enough to say that if you like any of Coetzee´s books, you´ll like this. I wasn´t aware it existed - but I´ve just seen that there´s another volume called Youth, too
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
One begins to understand why there is darkness in much of Coetzee’s fiction by reading this autobiographical account of his childhood. Family life was, at best, difficult and school life held many traumas. To protect himself from the many fearful challenges, the protagonist lives in a very personal parallel world, with some sentiments which he hates in himself. It is a very compelling read and the description of 1950s culture in the white and colored communities in
South Africa, is fascinating.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A piece of writing that paints a picture of the world as seen through the eyes of a child. Reading the book one is reminded of the feelings and sensations of being a child and a being not fully aware of the complexity of the world in which it lives. I found the description of the boys relationship to his mother particularly compelling and accurate. The main characters convictions thoughts and ideas ring true and show that Coetzee has not forgotten how he felt during his childhood.
Leia / Felix
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
i dont get it... i get it but... i dont
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wow. Extremely honest book.
Harriet Kingston
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I adore the simplicity and grace of Coetzee’s writing. He crafts stories in a way that is both powerful yet understated and I am never disappointed. Boyhood is a story of a young boy growing up and trying to find where he belongs, both at home and in society, and he could be anyone.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: international
A psychological portrait of the author from age 10 to 13, Boyhood is an unflinching account of Coetzee's personality, family dynamics, and South African society. The series is aptly named Scenes from a Provincial Life since there is scarcely a plot. The unsentimental revelation of his flaws, fears, and resentments is more like a therapy session or confession.
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
At its core, Boyhood is a novel about identity, and coming into one's own sense of self. A number of different themes float into and out of the narrative: the nature of masculinity, tension between the influence of the mother and father, and conflict between English and Afrikaner identity, to name just a few.

Although the style is simple and sparse, I think Boyhood is a very beautiful book. Its slow development of the protagonist mirrors the slow development of the human character. The simple sty
Nov 10, 2010 rated it liked it
#21/2011 This book is 166pg. It took me a year to finish it. Why? Don't know. I'm a finicky reader at best. Seeing it amidst my stacks of books last night I decided enough's enough and knocked out the last 70pgs.

This, Coetzee's first of three creative memoirs, has all the hallmarks of things I love: an exotic locale, coming-of-age tale, life details of a literary great; however, the oddest thing happened every time I picked up this slim book. I felt weighed down by the writing, a sense of claus
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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.

Other books in the series

Scenes from Provincial Life (3 books)
  • Youth
  • Summertime

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