Posted by: Ele Quigan | November 3, 2010

‘Summertime’ J.M. Coetzee

There’s been a bit of a hiatus on reading for me of late – which is very unusual for someone who normally absorbs books by osmosis, and gets jittery if there isn’t anything to read in the house. It’s a mixture of things, winter is coming to this wonderful land of cold and snow, I’ve been busy with a personal bits and pieces – which has meant that reading incredibly serious and occasionally depressing books (that’s usually the hallmark of good literature right? Something serious? Something that makes you think?) has fallen by the wayside.
I’ve had two books on the go for what has felt like months – ‘The corrections’ and this one – J M Coetzee’s ‘Summertime’.

Summer time is the 3rd in an autobiographic slash novel slash treatise slash outlook from J M Coetzee, again focusing on South Africa as its main content. I think after this one I’m going to take a break from a reading about a country where ingrained thoughts and feelings are so intense, as the insurmountable guilt that people must feel cannot be ignored.
It was an interesting read in so far as the author is still alive and this is a fictionalised account – but in some senses that also made it more harrowing. We all have some sense of how other people see us, and with ‘Summertime’, this is almost an extreme version of this.

Putting himself as unliked, accused as being not of his culture, a sense of expectation that this almighty author must have a particular opinion if things makes for uncomfortable and sad reading. The final fragment was possibly the hardest, and deals with the uncomfortable reality of a parent coming home from hospital, with the knowledge that you/Coetzee will become the primary caregiver, of wounds of medication of things you never envisaged taking over your life.
If I’m being honest about it – I’d suggest that the truism within this novel/autobiography is what makes it so challenging to read and reflect upon. I don’t think I’ll pick it up again, and I’m not sure if I’d be running out telling everyone about it, (who wants to recommend an uncomfortable read to their friends!) but still an interesting read nonetheless.


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