Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
A critically acclaimed novelist and critic—and an opponent of apartheid when it was the law of the land in South Africa—John Michael Coetzee (koo-ZEE) is one of the leading contemporary authors of South African literature. An Afrikaner who writes in English, he was born in Cape Town on February 9, 1940, and spent his childhood on his father’s isolated sheep farm in the stony semidesert of the Karroo.
Coetzee was educated at the University of Cape Town, receiving his B.A. in 1960 and his M.A. in 1963. From 1962 to 1963 he worked in London, England, as a computer programmer for the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). He married in 1963 and fathered two children, Nicholas and Gisela, before divorcing in 1980. He attended the University of Texas at Austin on a Fulbright exchange program and received his Ph.D. in 1969. His dissertation was entitled “The English Fiction of Samuel Beckett: An Essay in Stylistic Analysis.” While studying Anglo-Saxon and linguistics, Coetzee began reading colonial accounts of the exploration of South West Africa. Among these histories of the Hottentots, he found an account written by a remote eighteenth century ancestor, Jacobus Coetzee, which was to give rise to his first novel, Dusklands.
After teaching as an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo from...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
John Michael Coetzee was born on February 9, 1940, in Cape Town, South Africa. His family soon moved to the Karoo, a dreary region of semiarid plains in Cape Town Province, and he was raised there and on his grandparents’ farm. His father was an unsuccessful lawyer, and his mother was a teacher. His family spoke English at home, but he studied Afrikaans, South Africa’s other official language, in school. Coetzee attended the University of Cape Town, earning degrees in both mathematics and English. Soon after graduation, he moved to London. There he took a job as a computer programmer and wrote a master’s thesis on the English writer Ford Madox Ford. He earned his master of arts degree from the University of Cape Town in 1963 but remained in London for two more years working with computers.
Coetzee returned to the academic world in 1965, joining the doctoral program in linguistics at the University of Texas in Austin. Significantly, he was in the United States to witness the dramatic events of the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960’s at the same time that South Africa’s apartheid system and racial turmoil were drawing increased international attention. After completing his thesis on the playwright Samuel Beckett, he moved to the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he taught from 1968 to 1971 and began work on his first major work, Dusklands.
When Coetzee returned to South Africa in 1972, it was...
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
John Michael Coetzee (koot-SEE) was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940. His grandparents were farmers who descended from a long line of white Afrikaners, Dutch settlers who came to South Africa in the seventeenth century. Coetzee’s father was an attorney, and his mother was a schoolteacher whose free spirit Coetzee much admired. As a child, Coetzee grew up in and around the Karoo desert, an arid South African landscape that provided him with many of the settings for his novels. The author spoke English at home and, after attending various English-language schools, became knowledgeable in Afrikaans, Dutch, and several other languages. Coetzee’s wide intelligence is reflected in his academic degrees, as well as in his publications in a variety of disciplines. He received two bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Cape Town, one in English and the other in mathematics. In 1963, he also received an M.A. in English from the university. After graduation, he entered the private sector in England, working for International Business Machines in London and for International Computers in Bracknell, Berkshire. Coetzee’s marriage in 1963 produced a daughter and son; the couple divorced in 1980.
In 1965, Coetzee began his doctoral education in English at the University of Texas at Austin as a Fulbright scholar. There, he completed his...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
J. M. Coetzee’s novels are dense and filled with philosophical awareness of the situation of people living with or under oppressive circumstances, but, more importantly, his novels explore the way in which a false self, associated with a powerful but corrupt political or social system, must be dismantled. In creating realistic interior and external worlds that reflect human cruelty and atrocity, Coetzee never lets the reader forget that his protagonists are vulnerable men or women who have lost their way, and who are now on reparative journeys that involve serious moral and spiritual issues. His protagonists are not so much the victims of crime as they are themselves criminals who are unaware of their criminal natures, or, more often, they are ordinary people implicated in criminal systems, and for this they must atone. The novels are difficult to comprehend at times because the subject matter and the characters that inhabit the devastated worlds do not lend themselves to easy simplifications, especially since the reader must accept that pain and suffering is often the pathway to enlightenment, and that humiliation and disempowerment are necessary to achieve a full humanity.
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Biography (Novels for Students)
Booker Prize–winning author J. M. Coetzee, descendant of seventeenth-century Dutch settlers, was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940. His well-educated parents promoted an interest in learning in the young Coetzee, who loved to read books. When it came time to enter university, Coetzee studied both mathematics and English. Upon graduating with honors from the University of Cape Town, Coetzee moved to England where he found work as a computer programmer. His love of literature had not diminished, however, and two years after marrying Phillipa Jubber, in 1963, he was accepted as a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1969, he received his doctorate in English, linguistics, and Germanic languages.
Coetzee would go on to teach literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY) for the next three years. He had wanted to stay in the United States but was refused permanent residency, so he returned to South Africa in 1972. In that same year, Coetzee accepted a position as professor at the University of Cape Town, his alma mater, where he taught until his retirement in 2000. Coetzee would return to the United States from time to time, working as guest lecturer at several universities and colleges, including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Coetzee took up his interest in writing after receiving his doctorate. His first published book was Dusklands (1974). His second book,...
(The entire section is 451 words.)