Stories and Narration: In the Heart of the Country, The Master of Petersburg, The Childhood of Jesus

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This chapter is prompted by Coetzee’s longstanding interest in stories and storytelling, an interest that is registered across his critical essays and reviews, and thematized in several of his works. Focusing on In the Heart of the Country, The Master of Petersburg, and The Childhood of Jesus, as well as the computer poem ‘Hero and Bad Mother in Epic’, the chapter charts the relationship between the kinds of story that Coetzee has told – generally limited in the scope of their plots and the number of their principal characters – and the forms of narration he has adopted, which vary from the first-person character narration of certain of his early and middle fictions, to the tightly focalized external narration of his later works, to the dialogue-heavy and somewhat affectless narration of the Jesus novels. In each case, it is suggested that the particular form of narration is related to the particular truth with which the work in question seeks to confront its readers.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to J. M. Coetzee
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020