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Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II


Keenomanjaro
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This book follows a South African student from Cape Town who dreams of moving to Europe and becoming a poet. He obsesses with the idea of living life to its full intensity, so that these experiences can then be translated into his art.

 

Having saved enough money to leave a homeland on the verge of a race-war, he moves to London to follow in the footsteps of some of his favourite poets, but rather than finding inspiration he instead ends up becoming an outsider, unable to communicate with those around him and stuck in a monotonous job. Frustrations mount as he is unable to sustain a relationship as the women he meets fail to notice the 'fire inside' him. Ultimately, he continually falls short in terms of his lifestyle, writing and relationships.

 

I think the book is partly auto-biographical, in which case, Coetzee has given a frank and sometimes brutal, assessment of his younger self. I'm sure plenty of people will recognise the conflict between youthful idealism and the reality of the daily grind, and I suppose the book's greatest strength is the way the main character's hopes and dreams are gradually crushed until the ideals have been replaced with something akin to an acceptance of mediocrity.

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I assumed it was autobiographical because it was boring.

 

I can appreciate that this isn't exactly a thrilling read, but I thought the tone and pace of the book matched the subject matter and conveyed the disappointment, monotony and failure experienced by the narrator.

 

I haven't read any of his other work and perhaps my feelings about this book will change once I have. It must be tough trying to follow up two Booker Prize wins.

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I can appreciate that this isn't exactly a thrilling read, but I thought the tone and pace of the book matched the subject matter and conveyed the disappointment, monotony and failure experienced by the narrator.

Oh, he did do all that, just the way he did it didn't do it for me. However, I certainly wouldn't want to put you off reading any more Coetzee.

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