Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

JM Coetzee to shun Booker prize ceremony again

He may be about to make literary history, but JM Coetzee will not be ruining his reputation as one of the world’s most reclusive writers by turning up to the Booker prize ceremony.

On Tuesday, four of the six novelists shortlisted for this year’s prize gathered for a day of Booker-related engagements before Wednesday night’s black-tie do at London’s Guildhall. Sarah Waters, the author of The Little Stranger, was not there because of illness, but the reason for Coetzee’s absence was far more predictable: he just does not do this sort of thing.

Coetzee has been nominated for his possibly autobiographical novel Summertime and, were it to win, the South African-born writer would become the first person to win three Booker prizes — after success in 1983 with Life & Times of Michael K and 1999 for Disgrace.

But Coetzee faces tough competition in what has been widely acknowledged as one of the strongest shortlists in years. Ladbrokes has shortened the odds to 8/13 for runaway favourite Hilary Mantel and her Tudor intrigue novel, Wolf Hall. About 80% of all the money placed has been for Mantel.

None of the novelists gathering today had met Coetzee, although AS Byatt — another former winner, this year shortlisted for The Children’s Book — said that she was rather chuffed that “one of his books begins with the heroine reading a book by me in an aeroplane”.There was also perhaps a tinge of envy about the fact that no-one expects Coetzee to ever turn up. Adam Foulds, the youngest nominee for The Quickening Maze, said he recalled when his first novel was published he met the publishers and they “discussed the modest marketing they were going to do.

“I was quite expecting them to say, ‘or we have option two which is recluse and you’ll never have to meet anyone.’ Sadly that didn’t come up.”

Of course, Coetzee may be doing the world a favour. It is said that he smiles rarely and can sit through a dinner party without saying a word. In his new novel his main character, John Coetzee, is described as “prickly, opinionated, incompetent, ridiculous.” He is “socially inept. Repressed.” He is “seedy”, exuding an “air of failure.” He is a “cold fish” with “no sexual presence whatsoever.” In fact sex with the Coetzee of the novel is sordid — or boring.

Such striking self-flagellation may win him tonight’s Booker prize, but if so it will be his editor who collects the prize. – guardian.co.uk

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

GDP, recession, JSE, rallying rand … these terms mean very...

The economy is not producing work, with many young adults working outside their fields of study or considering leaving the country as a result

More top stories

Europe, Asia rob West Africa of fish

Greenpeace Africa reports that the fishmeal and fish oil industry is ‘robbing the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal of livelihoods and food’

Covid jab tech helps fight malaria

An estimated two-thirds of malaria deaths are among children under the age of five, most of them in Africa.

Learners moving to other provinces puts education departments under pressure

Gauteng and the Western Cape struggle to put children in class, but Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are closing schools as enrolment plummets

New membership system encounters problems in ANC branches

The Lower South Coast region has complained of a plot by some branch secretaries to manipulate the system
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×