Waiting for the Barbarians Questions and Answers
by J. M. Coetzee

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How do you define the word barbarian before and after you have read Waiting for the Barbarians?

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Good question because J.M. Coetzee changes our ideas of barbarians.  Before the novel I understood "barbarian" to refer to uncivilized people, savages.  But after the reading the novel, I see that perhaps there is not much difference between savages and civilized.

In this unnamed village, fear of barbarian attacks causes Colonel Joll to seek out savages who live close by and bring them in for questioning and torture.  These scenes are quite brutal.  Fear of the barbarians causes the supposedly civilized members of...

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