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/essays, where Señor C, who serves as Coetzee’s mouthpiece, spins out circuitous philosophies about government and vitriolic criticisms against Bush, Cheney, and Blair. The second section of each page supposedly narrates the story of C’s infatuation with a gorgeous young woman, Anya, whom he hires to type his essays. The third part of each page recounts Anya’s interactions with the ailing C and her rocky relationship with her boyfriend, Alan, who wants to extort money from the old man. Both the second and third parts are glaringly undeveloped and mostly uninteresting, and the section of “opinions” do not deliver any great depth. This is a disappointing work from one of the world’s most revered literary craftsmen. From the mind who gave readers such engrossing works as Life and Times of Michael K, The Age of Iron, The Master of Petersburg, and Disgrace, Coetzee’s lackluster Diary of a Bad Year does not seem to belong in his oeuvre. Coetzee admirers can only hope he finds the need to create a more imaginative work of fiction, worthy of the literary stature that deservedly earned him the Nobel Prize in 2003.
An oddly constructed novel: the page is divided (eventually) into three, with the first, top part, devoted to an essay, and the other two to the narrative(s). The narratives are silly, with stereotypical stock characters and a uninteresting plot. Very few of the essays are interesting, but they are the best part of the book; most are like blog posts. Awful book.
Coetzee is sincere in this book and that's refreshing in this dyin age. A very interesting thinker. His thoughts on quietism are comforting and provide company in a strange atomized way, his deliberate compassion makes him relatable. Beyond compare, I would agree with author226's comments (and thanks for providing the run-down).
Not the common type of book!
Two parallel lines through it: 1. opinions on different matters, such as politics, authors, photographers, children, ageing, water, fire and endless other ones… 2. The acquaintance with a young pretty lady who ...types the old writer’s manuscript. The opinions are at times lengthy compared to what goes on with the lives of the characters but that somehow raises the tension and interest to move through the pages.
As for the storytelling: The STRENGTH of the word is magnificent! And somehow there is the sound of a typewriter (though the computer is what is really used to type the pages) – distant – always existent when reading line upon line… Maybe because of the young woman the writer hires to type his manuscript, maybe because each word sounds so strong it almost hits the paper with the metal fingers of the typing machine…
Definitely a unique signature!
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