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Diary of a Bad Year

J. M. Coetzee, Author
J. M. Coetzee, Author . Viking $24.95 (231p) ISBN 978-0-670-01875-8
Reviewed on: 09/17/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
Hardcover - 376 pages - 978-1-4104-0714-6
Paperback - 259 pages - 978-89-374-8288-5
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-09-951622-4
Hardcover - 178 pages - 978-1-921145-63-6
Hardcover - 231 pages - 978-1-84655-120-8
Paperback - 231 pages - 978-0-14-311448-2
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Nobelist Coetzee's 19th book features a stand-in for himself: Señor C, a white 72-year-old South African writer living in Australia who has written Waiting for the Barbarians . C falls into a “metaphysical” passion for his sexy 29-year-old Filipina neighbor, Anya, and quickly plots to spend more time with her by offering her a job as his typist. C's latest project is a series of political and philosophical essays, and Coetzee divides each page of the present novel in three: any given page features a bit of an essay (often its title and opening paragraph) at the top; C's POV in the middle; and Anya's voice at the bottom. C's opinions in the essays are mostly on the left (he despises Bush, Blair & Co., and is opposed to the Iraq War) and they bore Anya, who wants something less lofty. Meanwhile, Anya's lover, Alan—a smart, conservative 42-year-old investment consultant who's good in the sack, and who stands for everything C despises—becomes increasingly scornful and jealous, and eventually concocts an elaborate plan to defraud C. of money. Unfortunately, Anya is little more than a trophy to be disputed, and Alan as an unscrupulous, boorish reactionary is a caricature. While C's essays, especially the later ones inspired by Anya, hold some interest, this follow-up to Slow Year is not one of Coetzee's major efforts. (Jan.)

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