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1001 book reviews > Dusklands by J.M. Coetzee

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Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 3 Stars
Read: July 2016

This was a short but difficult read and one of many books on the list by Coetzee. This is my second book by him. It is the first book he wrote. The general theme of the book deals with the effects of colonialism, imperialism, and brutality. The book is comprised of two stories in journal form. The first story is about a Vietnam vet and his descent into madness. The second is about a frontiersman, who may have been an ancestor of the author, and his acts of hatred. Overall, not a feel-good sort of book and not for the squeamish.

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 480 comments My review: This novella is in two parts, one following a man who works with Mr. Coetzee in some way, though his exact relationship with Mr. Coetzee was a bit vague. This guy is clearly insane, and his insanity becomes more clear by the end of his narrative. Then the book shifts to an account of Mr. Coetzee, apparently the author's ancestor who took part in the ugly, brutal violence involved in opening new areas of South Africa's interior to colonial exploitation. The book does not shy away from this violence of that time and seems geared towards showing the reader the ugly underbelly of history that might not have been mentioned in school history books. I did like that at least for a while the local native people in this story, a tribe of Bushmen so far resistant to colonial dominance, hold the upper hand with Coetzee and his group. But, of course, Coetzee does his best to exterminate the tribe as soon as he is able in retribution for his bruised pride.
I did not particularly enjoy this book, but I appreciated the depiction of pre-colonial or early-colonial Africa. The first part was weird, and I didn't get as much out of it.
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

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