J. M. Coetzee (1940–)
John Michael Coetzee was born on February 9, 1940, in South Africa. His father, a government worker who lost his job because he disagreed with South Africa’s apartheid policies, was an early influence in the writer’s life. Coetzee took a bachelor of arts degree in 1960 from the University of Cape Town and a master of fine arts degree in 1963. In 1969, he received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in academia for most of his adult life, holding teaching positions at the University of Cape Town, the State University of New York in Buffalo, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University. Coetzee is currently professor of general literature at the University of Cape Town.
As a white writer living in South Africa during apartheid, Coetzee developed powerful anti-imperialist feelings. His novels, deeply influenced by postmodern ideas of representation and language, illustrate the insidious ways in which dominant groups seek to impose their culture and thinking on conquered peoples. For example, his first novel, Dusklands (1974), tells two distinct but parallel stories: one of the workings of the United States State Department during the Vietnam war and the other Jacobus Coetzee’s conquest of South Africa in the 1760s. Coetzee’s own alienation from his fellow Afrikaners is evident in his novels, most of which focus on the thoughts and actions of a single character put...
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