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J.M. Coetzee

Stranger Shores

Publishers Weekly Tackling works by Rushdie, Naguib Mahfouz, Doris Lessing, Borges and A.S. Byatt, Stranger Shores: Literary Essays collects critical work by South African author and two-time Booker-winner J.M. Coetzee. Coetzee posits in "What Is a Classic" that "[c]riticism... is duty-bound to interrogate the classic" and thereby "may be what the classic uses to define itself and ensure its survival." None of these thoughtful, deft and erudite essays, all but one of which were previously published, land heavily or obviously (if at all) on any side of a literary, critical or political issue like Coetzee's poised fiction.


Internationally acclaimed novelist Coetzee is also a rigorous essayist, as evident in his collection on censorship, Giving Offense (1996), and in his serious literary criticism. This gathering of 26 essays displays the range and interpretative richness of his profound involvement in other writers' work, beginning with an intriguing inquiry into how Daniel Defoe was eclipsed by his own creation, the now mythic Robinson Crusoe, and Coetzee's vision for a screen adaptation of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa. Writing from a consistently elevated political perspective as well as academically calibrated aesthetics, Coetzee also digs into Joseph Frank's monumental five-volume biography of Dostoevsky, discusses the work of Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, and roughs up A. S. Byatt. Caribbean novelist Caryl Phillips comes in for searing criticism even as Coetzee praises him for "remembering what the West would like to forget." And Aharon Appelfeld, Naguib Mahfouz, and a constellation of South African writers,including Gordimer and Lessing, Daphne Rooke and Breyten Breytenbach, are all treated with equal measures of skepticism and respect to illuminating ends. Donna Seaman

Library Journal Coetzee's multi-award-winning fiction is well known in this country; now here's a chance to get to know his literary criticism.

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