About J.M. Coetzee

As in most of my favourite authors, I discovered J.M. Coetzee via a roadside bookshop, in Maryland, Ikeja. It was the same day I bought Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, one of my all-time favourites, and which I've bought more copies for people more than any other book.

It was probably 2008, and before the Lagos State government embarked on an environmental effort that retired most of the roadside bookshops. And my friend, let's ignore the alaba cancer of piracy, the best and rarest books were on Lagos roadsides, freely displayed in makeshift corners, without the uppity of neatness and posh bargaining. (It's never funny these days when my only choice to scan books are that expensive bookshop in Ikoyi and its Ikeja Shopping Mall branch, and sometimes Terra Kulture).

I discovered J.M. Coetzee through his work - "Elizabeth Costello". It remains my favourite work of his. His sentences sometimes exhibit Hemingway's type of sparseness, sometimes cold, sometimes overly surgical. His essays, mostly. I've come to associate overly surgical polemics to South African authors with apartheid literary experience. Gordimer, especially.

This essayist dissects Coetzee charmingly.

"If Foster Wallace is a patron saint of imaginative and expansive self-expression, Coetzee carries the banner for the relentless artistry of subtraction — a skill that, in these days of social media–induced oversharing, is surely slipping from view."


The Writing of Life By Martin Woessner