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J. M. Coetzee


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First-ever biography written about the reclusive nobel laureate remarkably, with the full co-operation of Coetzee

About the Author

J.C. Kannemeyer was professor of Afrikaans and Dutch at Stellenbosch University. He was the author of a two-volume history of Afrikaans literature, as well as of six extensive biographies of Afrikaans authors. Professor Kannemeyer died on 25 December 2011.


'Social media and the modern publishing industry have altered the role of the writer, requiring certain types of self-promotion anathema to many whose talents lie in sitting alone at a desk thinking, reading and writing. Kannemeyer comments on ''the essentially unknowable subject that the biographer tries in vain to capture'' in Summertime, finding in this an ''unambiguous warning for any real-life biographer who might want to trace the life of J.M. Coetzee''. Yet Kannemeyer has produced a labour of careful scholarship, evidently born of a deep interest in and affection for Coetzee's work.'

-- Felicity Plunkett * Canberra Times *

'What makes great novels are great writers. The Coetzee-as-writer presented here is possibly the essence of the man.'

-- Susan Johnson * Courier Mail *

'J.M. Coetzee - A Life in Writing is a tome of serious scholarship, meticulously researched, and mammoth in scale, yet eminently readable and, in parts, utterly absorbing ... It is a masterly tome that certainly lends greater understanding for anyone intending to read their way through Coetzee's entire oeuvre and will, without question, be the starting point for all such biographies to come.'

-- Billy O'Callaghan * Irish Examiner *

'There is no more sympathetic chronicler of Coetzee's life, at least so far, than Kannemeyer. And there is arguably no greater source of knowledge and information on this famed author than that provided in this magnificent volume.'

-- MARTIN STEVENSON * Launceston Examiner *

'A valuable document ... Throughout this biography, Coetzee's work, his letters and lectures are quoted extensively and the classicism of his writing is evident in every sentence. Wisely, Kannemeyer does not try to compete. Instead, he suggests that what Coetzee wrote of Beckett might well be applied to Coetzee himself: "Beckett was an artist possessed by a vision of life without consolation or dignity or promise of grace, in the face of which our only duty - inexplicable and futile of attainment, but a duty nonetheless - is not to lie to ourselves." That's why he matters.'

-- David Sexton * London Evening Standard *

'[An] adroit blend of biography, history, interview and literary criticism - as well as the journey of the subject himself - make for a fascinating study.'

-- Julia Tulloh * Readings *

'[Kannemeyer's] account of Coetzee's life ... is an impressive feat of scholarship that will prove indispensable to anyone who wishes to understand the historical and political context of Coetzee's work'

-- James Ley * Sydney Review of Books *

'In the astonishingly short space of three years, Kannemeyer wrote this revealing and thorough volume ... Coetzee's fame and his reclusiveness guarantee the book will attract enormous interest ... This important biography ... sheds more light on a great writer than anything that has appeared previously.'

-- Peter Alexander * The Age *

'A scrupulously researched read. Unless Coetzee turns out to be another P.G. Wodehouse still writing and publishing new books into his nineties, this will almost certainly remain more or less the definitive read and work of reference for him.'

* The Book Bag *

'This book deserves a medal for bravery ... in scrutinising Coetzee's manuscripts [Kannemeyer] excels.'

-- Peter Kemp * The Sunday Times *

'Kannemeyer properly dedicates a generous portion of the biography to accounts of the genesis, composition, publication and reception of Coetzee's fictions ... For the most part, the biographer's careful scholarship and efforts at inclusiveness are welcome.'

-- Geordie Williamson * Weekend Australian *

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