The first comprehensive account of J. M. Coetzee's literary career, this book illuminates the author's life-long engagement with the problems of colonialism and 'post colonialism.' How successful has this member of a white South African academic elite been in accommodating his various roles as author, public intellectual, and citizen? What are the ethics of writing fiction within postcolonial and, more specifically, South African contexts? Has Coetzee's withdrawal from the public domain problematized his portrayals of a series of author-protagonists writing under apartheid and postapartheid conditions? What does Coetzee's criticism on writers like D. H. Lawrence, Samuel Beckett, and Dostoevsky tell us about his own works?
From Dusklands to Disgrace and from Waiting for the Barbarians to Elizabeth Costello, Jane Poyner traces how Coetzee rehearses and revises his understanding of the ethics of intellectualism in parallel with the emergency of the 'new South Africa.' She contends that Coetzee not only introduces a singularly modernist reading of the South African situation to the field of postcolonial studies but also makes postcolonial interventions into the modernist tradition by reworking novels of this literary movement. In addition, she is attentive to the ways his writing reflects Coetzee's evolving views of the writer's proper role with respect to the changing ethical demands of contemporary political life. Both theoretically sophisticated and accessibly written, her book is a major contribution to our understanding of the Nobel Laureate and to postcolonial studies.