Special Commissioned Essay on In the Heart of the Country by J. M. Coetzee Margaret Lenta
The following special entry, written by noted scholar Margaret Lenta, represents analysis of J. M. Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country (1977). For more information on Coetzee's life and career, see CLC, Volumes 23, 33, 66, 117, and 161.
In the Heart of the Country was Coetzee's second work of fiction. Before it appeared in its entirety in 1977, sections 85 through 94 of the novel had appeared in the South African academic journal Standpunte in 1976. The critic Josephine Dodd claimed in World Literature Written in English (vol. 27, no. 2, 1987: 153-161) that in the same year the South African novelist Nadine Gordimer “tried to interest her British publishers in accepting it, but they declined.” The complete novel was first published in 1977 in an “English language edition” by Secker and Warburg in London. It appeared simultaneously in the United States as From the Heart of Country, published by Harper and Row. In 1978 a significantly different edition was published in South Africa by Ravan Press, Johannesburg. Ravan was a small but important publishing house, committed to the publication of works which promoted social justice in South Africa and which might contribute to political change. Ravan in fact had been the publishers of Coetzee's first novel, Dusklands (1974), in which he invites his readers to compare an official propagandist in America during the Vietnam War with an eighteenth-century Cape Dutch traveler in his dealings with the indigenous peoples of the Cape hinterland. Only in 1982, after the publication in 1980 of Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee's third novel, which won three major prizes, did In the Heart of the Country appear in a Penguin edition.