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Waiting for the Barbarians
by J. M. Coetzee
From the book jacket:
For decades the Magistrate has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement and ignoring the impending war with the barbarians. When interrogation experts arrive, however, he witnesses the Empire's cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war. Jolted into sympathy for their victims, he commits a quixotic act of rebellion that brands him an enemy of the state. J.M. Coetzee's prize-winning novel is a startling allegory of the war between oppressor and oppressed. The Magistrate is not simply a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times; his situation is that of all men living in unbearable complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency.
 



Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (1 of 56), Read 87 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 06:49 AM I hope some of you have left room in your Updike reading schedule for our book of the month. I'm behind, having just started it yesterday, so I don't have much to say yet, except that, as ever, Coetzee pulls no punches. Waiting for the Barbarians promises to be an intense read. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (2 of 56), Read 77 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 07:03 AM Sherry, I'm squeezing it in! And you're right; its very intense! Beej
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (3 of 56), Read 79 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 09:03 AM Yes. Intense. SPOILER ALERT I'm only into chapter 2 but right from the beginning it is apparent to me that barbarianism is a projection from the "civilized" who then become the very barbarians they fear. I see both South Africa and the cold war mentality evident in this story so far. Robt
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (4 of 56), Read 80 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 10:41 AM I finished this book a few weeks ago. A very well written book which packs a lot into a thin volume. Its sparseness is due to Coetzee's skill in his use of detail. Much of the power of this story derives from the fact that the "Empire" and its frontier are never identified. Because no definite time or place are mentioned, it is always about our time and our empire.
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (5 of 56), Read 81 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 11:44 AM Ack, I totally forgot, Rabbitomaniac that I am. I'll get right on it. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (6 of 56), Read 87 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 12:21 PM We're hopeless, aren't we Ruth? Or perhaps at this point, we're helpless. Beej
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (7 of 56), Read 92 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 02:20 PM We'll be waiting for you. Hold on; let me rephrase that... David
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (8 of 56), Read 92 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 15, 2001 04:48 PM Daviiiiiiiiiid! I'm back from the laying on of plastic all over town, and have started on Barbarians. Something tells me I've read this before. Hmmm. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (9 of 56), Read 92 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Rachel Auton (auton@paradise.net.nz) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 01:07 AM At last I can participate in a Reading list discussion!!! I'm half way through the book and all I have to say is INTENSE. I have made one observation though, having just read "Disgrace" is that Coetzee likes his main male characters to bed much younger women!!! Rachel (Avid Reader NZ)
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (10 of 56), Read 101 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 01:28 AM Ruth, you may have read this one a while back. I read it on a Coetzee kick right after Gail introduced us to Michael K lo these several years ago; and I recall a couple of others read it as well. It happened that on the day I finished this one back then, the Oakland paper had Cavafy's Waiting for the Barbarian's in its weekly poetry column. I posted it then, and I'll post it again now, down in poetry. Rachel, I actually don't think the old dog/fresh young thing thing is a real theme of Coetzee's, at least not in the same way it might be for writers of macho genre novels. He likes to play around with relationships and power, much like R.C. Binstock's Tree of Heaven, which generated a great discussion here a (long) while back. Difference is, every book I've read by Coetzee is marvelous (although his autobiography less so); I tried to read another book by Binstock, and could only stomach about 50 pages. Theresa
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (11 of 56), Read 95 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, June 16, 2001 05:55 PM I think you're right, Theresa. That's when I read it. It's damned tantalizing though. I cannot for the life of me remember what happens ahead of time, but I recognize each instance as I come to it. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (12 of 56), Read 75 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 05:45 PM Where is everybody? This is a terrific book. When I discovered I'd read it before, I tried to put it down and go on to something else, but it wouldn't let me. I was hooked right back into it. Empire has located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but ion the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe. Empire dooms itself to live in histgory and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era> It's tempting, isn't it, to try to put a name on the Empire? The Romans, the Brits, the Russians, the Americans? Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (13 of 56), Read 79 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 07:34 PM I've got it and just starting. Fascinating. i am going away to a summer cottage this weekend and back probably and done Monday.
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (14 of 56), Read 82 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 08:32 PM I have been out of town for much of June, and today I just returned from visiting my parents in Indiana. I finished BARBARIANS on June 12th, but I haven't been near a computer for awhile. The thing that struck me about the main character (does he ever give his name?) is the loneliness of his life. At the beginning of the book, he talks about dining with friends, but when he is arrested after helping the barbarian woman, no one tries to help him. The only people with names seem to be the Administration. I don't think that the sex with younger women is very important. The main character is searching for some kind of connection and he tries to find it with a young prostitute and then with the crippled girl. I had the feeling that they were the most conveniently placed women in the fort. The atmosphere was almost futuristic in the sense that Mad Max is. It was quite chilling and powerful. Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (15 of 56), Read 84 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 09:31 PM Chilling is right, Jane. Don't you feel that the connection our protagonist (funny, I never noticed that we weren't told his name) seeks is far more than sex or companionship? Somehow I feel it has to do with making a connection to the barbarians, becoming part of them in a way. This is still pretty nebulous in my mind, but something keeps tugging me in that direction. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (16 of 56), Read 79 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 06:47 AM The magistrate was the only name we were given for the protagonist. Not having a name for him seems in keeping with no name for the Empire or no name for the Barbarians. They are universal, like Everyman. I found the passages when he was massages and oils the feet of the injured girl very moving, practically Biblical. These rituals continue and expand, and the girl is obviously puzzled, for she becomes the sexual initiator finally. I found nothing prurient in these sexual acts, but thought they conveyed a sense of healing and forgiveness. Coetzee is a master at taking the grand and making it human, and taking the human and making it grand. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (17 of 56), Read 83 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 06:59 AM Sherry, I like this:master at taking the grand and making it human etc". Wow! I have been so blown away by Coetzee. After being introduced to him here at CR with Disgrace I have given my friends copies it, just to be able to keep talking about it!and hear their reactions. Candy
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (18 of 56), Read 80 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 12:11 PM I keep thinking that everything in this book is symbolic, not just the Empire, but all the smaller stuff. Like what does the 'oiling ceremony' stand for? A wish to atone? "He anointest me with oil?" Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (19 of 56), Read 84 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 12:56 PM That's what I meant with the Biblical comment, Ruth. It seems like the magistrate was prostrating himself at the feet of "the least of these". Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (20 of 56), Read 81 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 01:08 PM Candy, have you read anything else besides Disgrace? I've also read Master of Petersburg and Life and Times of Michael K. Eventually, I'll get to more. MOP is totally different from the other stuff I've read of his. I loved it. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (21 of 56), Read 77 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 01:09 PM Sheesh, Sherry, how did I miss that? I shouldn't read before I have my coffee. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (22 of 56), Read 77 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 01:10 PM No, problem, Ruth. Did you have angleglue cake with your coffee? I'll be quiet, back to the book. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (23 of 56), Read 79 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 01:39 PM For me, the magistrate’s ablutions of the girl, were a sign of his non-complicity with the cruelty of the Empire. As such they are a way for him to act on his principles and defy the Empire. As well, they are a symbolic attempt at reparation. It can only be symbolic because no reparation is possible. The sadness and frustration of this impossibility weigh on him until he knows that he can only alleviate it by undertaking at great pains to return the girl to her people. It cannot bring reparation but again he has acted on his principles and that is the important thing.
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (24 of 56), Read 82 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 05:00 PM I think you're right, Dean. But isn't there a section in the book where the magistrate himself reflects on this, and realizes perhaps he's gone thru the motions more to make himself feel better, rather than to make reparations to the girl? Did I dream this? Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (25 of 56), Read 87 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 05:24 PM I think that your right, Ruth. The idea of reparation was never stated but I felt very strongly his helplessness before its absolute impossibility.
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (26 of 56), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, June 23, 2001 01:46 PM The magistrate seems to rebel in his quiet way from the very beginning when he tries to help the two so called prisoners that Colonel Joll tortures and interrogates. He also knows that he will have problems with Joll because of this. The magistrate says that he should have taken a holiday while Joll was there and ignored what was going on. The magistrate could not ignore the prisoners. I loved the opening lines of the book, didn't you? Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (27 of 56), Read 80 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Sunday, June 24, 2001 07:18 AM I had to go back and look. Here they are: "I have never seen anything like it: two little discs of glass suspended in front of his eyes in loops of wire. Is he blind? I could understand it if he wanted to hide blind eyes. But he is not blind. The discs are dark, they look opaque from the outside, but he can see through them. He tells me they are a new invention." This really does set the tone, doesn't it, Jane? I liked these lines, later on, after he had witnessed the treatment of the first two prisoners. "I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end." Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (28 of 56), Read 83 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Sunday, June 24, 2001 06:31 PM During the magistrate's torture I almost threw the book out it upset me so much. I was really angry by the amount of torture the book dwelled upon. But I'm feeling vulnerable today as a very dear friend is fighting for his life in a hospital bed in Vermont and WFTB has been a brutal read at this time. I could have abandoned the book but I reasoned to do so would have been worse than to finish the story, and I am grateful that there was eventually an alleviation, a passage, another day. Anyway, this novel is powerful. The magistrate was real to me: flawed and ordinary in many ways and yet a wonderfully heroic and courageous leader. He gave voice to my outrage. The Empire and Barbarian dynamic is universally applicable, and yet clearly derives from Coetzee's native South Africa. The state paranoia leading to horrific atrocities rang true, which is why it upset me so much. There is too much precedent and potential for this insanity to be dismissed as just fiction. I can see why this book is part of the Penguin Great Books of the Twentieth Century series because it would be good for everyone in the government to read it. And everyone else, too. So, within an afternoon, I've gone from being enraged that anyone should be subjected to this book to wanting everyone to read it. That just shows you how stable I am. My reading experience of BLOOD MERIDIAN was similar in that I was sickened and enervated by the violence and yet the overall impact of the book transcended this. I consider BLOOD MERIDIAN to be one of the best novels I have ever read and yet I am reticent to recommend it. Perhaps I will feel this way about WFTB. I wonder if Cormac McCarthy read WFTB before writing BM. Robt
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (29 of 56), Read 84 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, June 24, 2001 07:56 PM Robert, I am sorry about your friend. It is so difficult to read this story, like Blood Meridian, I wonder at myself and think how sick, I can read this! yet, I think it is brilliant and challenging and this may have to be added onto my "world peace reading list". Coetzee is really something else...I have a feeling this will be one of my top ten for this year... must think about what has been posted here and stirred up in my haert and to think of the economy and world we live in...upsetting...
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (30 of 56), Read 88 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, June 24, 2001 08:27 PM Robt, I, too, am sorry to hear about your friend. I will be sending positive thoughts your way. I read this book while I was on vacation, so it didn't have the impact on me that it did you. I mean that I felt it was a powerful book, but I wasn't upset by it, because I was relaxing and having a good time when I wasn't reading the book. What is going on in one's own life does make a difference, doesn't it? Sherry, Thanks for posting those two passages. Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (31 of 56), Read 80 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, June 25, 2001 09:07 AM Jane yes, I think it does colour what we see and read the events and traumas even the high notes. Sherry I too thank you for putting those quotes in. I would love to put in a poem here by Archibald mcLiech it is so appropriate to Roberts comments regarding this novle and Blood meridian. But it's fairly long and I haven't mistressed the scanner yet. It can be found in a few Norton anthologies if anyone has one kicking around. it's called Empire Builders It's so powerful and fits in with this book if you all get the chance to look at it. Also humbling and depressing. I feel sad to be a human when I read Waiting FTBs.
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (32 of 56), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, June 25, 2001 08:08 PM Sherry, When I was running this morning, the quote that you posted from the opening of the book came back to me. "Is he blind?" Well, Joll may not be blind, but he does blind other people. Or maybe, the point is that he is blind about the dangers of the barbarians. I do some of my best thinking when I am running. Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (33 of 56), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2001 05:27 PM Or he is blind to the dangers of himself. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (34 of 56), Read 88 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2001 08:17 PM Yes, Sherry, I think that it is all of those things. Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (35 of 56), Read 81 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 02:35 PM Before the Magistrate anoints the girl with oils, he washes her feet. When I read that, I instantly thought of the New Testament where Christ washes the feet of his disciples, a ceremony that is replicated even today in the RC church on Good Friday. It is meant to be the ultimate act of humility - I am no better than you, etc. It took me a long time to finish this book because I could only take in 20 pages at a clip. The intensity of the torture and human insensitivity was too much for me to take in large quantities. I felt that Coetzee wanted the reader to form the question "who are the barbarians?" I didn't seem as though anyone was too far removed from that status. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (36 of 56), Read 84 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 07:17 PM Sherry, I haven't read anything besides Disgrace and this of Coetzee's. I will slowly but surely. I never even heard of him before last year when Disgrace was a book on the reading list. I was talking about disgrace with a friend out west, and they asked if I had read WFTBs, because I was so freaked out by Disgrace. They were like, oh that's nothing compared to WFTBs. Does anyone think the title is like Waiting For Goddo?( I am sure thats spelt wtrong no better way is coming to me right now, sorry). "Ridiculous I thought:a greybeard sitting in the dark waiting for spirits from the byways of history to speak to him before he goes home to his military stew and his comfortable bed. The space above the shacks and tenements and temples and offices of the capital. space is space, life is life, everywhere the same. But as for me,sustained by the toil of others, lacking cicilized vices with which to fill my leisure, I pamper my melancholy and try to find in the vacuousness of the desert a special historical poignancy. Vain, idle, misguided! how fortunate that no one sees me." That stands out to me in this book. when we have asked here in this thread WHO is this empire where is it. I see it as everywhere. This book is so there with the whole ruins of the aboriginals as the ones who are only different from all the rest of us on the earth who are 'civilized' 'agriculturalists' 'industrialists'. It's pretty amazing and I think. Now, what when I read this book. What do I do today, how can I not be like these people in this story. Am I like him because i'm 'lucky' that I have a pretty sheltered life because I live off the toils of others? Are we all lucky if our lives happen to be happy and tolerable-it is the result perhaps of others who suffer? A book by Jean Vanier has some religious service of people to go around in cities and wash the homelesses feet. I sort of thought of that in this book... love and peace (is that possible-should we care if we're okay?) Candy p.s. see now this is why people avoid these artsy books, they are poetic and depressing!
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (37 of 56), Read 87 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 07:22 PM Waiting for Godot. But I don't see much connection there. The title (Waiting for the Barbarians) comes from a famous poem by Cavafy. You can find it on the net.Theresa posted it in Poetry, but it's probably timed out. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (38 of 56), Read 84 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 09:39 PM Actually, I thought there was a connection, in that in WFG they're going through this pointless waiting, and the question of how you will know when Godot arrives is very real. I can see some similarities to that in WFTB. Regarding the question of which Empire, I thought one of the many Empires this story could have been written about is the US's western outposts v. Native Americans. When the Magistrate was being questioned about the papers that were found with script, it reminded me of the university inquisition in Disgrace. In both cases, the person on the spot says screw you, I'm not going to make your job easy. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (39 of 56), Read 83 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, June 28, 2001 10:49 PM Now that you point it out, MAP, I see connection with the waiting idea. The waiting, not knowing exactly what one is waiting for, etc. It's the absurdism of Godot that I'm unable to connect to Barbarians. I'm seeing Barbarians more as a parable, meant for us to apply to any of godknowshowmany Empires the world has seen and will see. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (40 of 56), Read 81 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 05:03 AM Godot, thanks Ruth! I was especially tired last night. I had read the poems posted here WFTBs. It's weird I wasn't sure at first which was written first. I was surprised to see the novel was from 1980. I was trying to think about him thinking of all these settings in that year. I felt there was a very existential suspense or atmoshere in this novel. Rather than 'absurdism' aspect of the play that I was thinking of and the waiting. The talking about the arrival. I agree with Mary Anne that this reminded me of many books about Canda and America when new settlers were coming and between the settlers and aboriginals. Coetzee uses the term aboriginals quite a few times when saying how the empire gets the vision of the barbarians confused with the aboriginals(the fishers with nets, the hunters with bows). This book makes me think of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and Blood Meridian. Candy
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (41 of 56), Read 85 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 07:55 AM I am glad this is a short novel. It sort of helps for sorting it out, and to try to tolerate it's details. Um, there were parts that reminded me of the discussion we had under movies for The Last Tango in paris. I had quoted some things that Ocatvio paz had said about libertines and S&M. here is something from WFTBs: "It is not that something is in the course of happening to me that happens to some men of a certain age, a downward progress from libertinage to vengeful actions of impotent yearning. If a change in my moral being were occuring I would feel it; nor would I have undertaken this evenings reassuring experiment" he is wondering about his possession of this girl and why he went to see if he could have sex, and that was his experiment, with another girl. and these thoughts come to him right before he realizes-what? some kind fo connection between his captive girl, the barbarian?(she's a barbarian, right? oh this is so hard) and Joll. He starts thinking about the girls blind eyes"the image of a face masked by two glassy insect eyes from which there comes no reciprical gaze but only my doubled image cast back at me". Well, he's is thinkiing of what the girl or his Joll!!!! and he sees there is something in this. I am struck by his struggle to understand that the deceit of libertarianism is also connected to torture and war and cruelty. and this struck me as something too: " there were unsettling occassions when in the middle of the sexual act I felt myself losing my way like a storyteller losing the thread of his story". somehow his unravelling the meaning of his life unravelling and his sexual urge. I think because the idea of sex and intimacy is blocked its like it is politically sanctioned in his world or something. It is associated with the structure, the attitude towards sex is a by product of the way he lives and his people live. But I really don't know what this means, and I am grabbing for things in here at the moment....trying to track down this mystery I sense this connection that Coetzee is showing...
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (42 of 56), Read 86 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 08:51 AM I have decided to read this through right from beginning to end. I am finding it much easier. I was so emotionally involved the first time and it was so disturbing. I think I am a barbarian. I wasn't always, I was born in the Empire(farmers), but reading turned me into a barbarian.And listening to the stories and friends who are barbarians(hunter-gatherers)I am probably going to give this to my friends for xmas and birthdays. They have been enduring my rants about the evils of agricultural economies for long time. it might be nice for them to hear it from a good writer. Coetzee is my people. "I wish these that these barbarians would rise up and teach us a lesson, so that we would learn to respect them. We think of our country here as ours, part of our Empire-our outpost, our settlement, our market centre. But these people, these barbarians don't think of it like that at all. We have been here more than a hundred years, we have reclaimed land from the desert and built irrigation works and planted fields and built solid homes and put a wall around our town, but they still think of us as visitors, transients. There are folk alive among them who remember their parents telling them about this oasis as it once was: a well-shaded place by the side of the lake with plenty of grazing even in winter. That is how they still talk about it,perhaps how they still see it, as though not one spadeful of earth had been turned or one brick laid upon another. They do not doubt that one of these days we will pack our carts and depart to whereever it was we came from, that our buildings will become homes for the mice and lizards, that their beasts will graze on these rich feilds we have planted. You smile? Shall I tell you something? Every year the lake water grows a little more salty." The setting here also reminds me of Mad Max(I forgot who pointed that out, sorry, great comparisson!) This also remeinds me of Hugh Brodys book The Other Side Of Eden:Hunters Farmers and The Shaping Of The World which I have raved about here. it also remeind sme of all of Daniel Quinns books.
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (43 of 56), Read 89 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 09:07 AM I have some old farm magazines and in one of them, I found a contest. It was from an issue in the forties. The magazine had a photo of a deserted farmhouse and some over gullied fields. For whoever wrote the best description of the photo in one hundred words would win. Here is the first place winner... "Picture show white man crazy. Cut down trees, make big tepee. Plough hill. Water mash. Wind blow soil. Grass gone. Door gone. Whole place gone. Money gone. Papoose gone. Squaw too. No chuckaway. No pig. No cow. No plough. No hay. No pony. Indian no plough land. Keep grass. Buffalo eat grass. Indian eat buffalo. Hides make tepee. Make moccasin. Indian no make terrace. No make dam. All time eat. No hunt job. No hitchhike. No ask relief. No shoot pig. Great Spirit make grass. Indian no waste anything. Indian no work. White man crazy."
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (44 of 56), Read 80 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Gail Singer (gailsinger_gross@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 10:13 PM greetings CANDY... i have not read WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS yet....but COETZEE is my man also!!...he was elusive and his peers could never get a handle on him.. he finally wrote BOYHOOD...and reveals himself up to age 8, i think.... my introduction to him was with the BOOKER AWARD WINNER.. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MICHAEL K.. that blew me away... i think SHERRY mentioned once that this was her favorite..??? not sure... stephen spender in the new yorker once wrote that coetzee was one of the most important writers in the 20th century... and he only mentioned one other! gail...feeling sorry that she can't read all the books that lead to these stintillating discussions!
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (45 of 56), Read 82 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, June 29, 2001 10:44 PM You know what gail, I am actually in a mood right now that I wished I hadn't read it. It just depressed me so much. If any of his other books are well, the thing is just from the two I have read, he seems so wise and insightful to me. How do we act after reading a book like this? Anyway, I hope my next books in the pile are a bit more hopeful...
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (46 of 56), Read 64 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 10:18 AM Since I mentioned in this thread about my friend with AIDS being very ill, I will tell you that he died this morning and I am in mourning now. I'll be around later to continue this discussion. The book is really excellent. Robt
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (47 of 56), Read 64 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 11:04 AM Oh, Robert, I'm so sorry. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (48 of 56), Read 66 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 03:23 PM Me too, Robert. My thoughts are with you. Beej
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (49 of 56), Read 65 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 08:08 PM Oh, Robert. I'm so sorry to hear this. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (50 of 56), Read 66 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, July 02, 2001 08:36 PM Robt, I am so sorry. My thoughts are with you. Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (51 of 56), Read 66 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 10:45 AM Dear dear, Robert, I am so very sorry. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (52 of 56), Read 63 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 10:50 AM Thank you for your kind words everyone. I'm sorry to hijack this thread and should have posted in Salon. I'll be going to his memorial service on Saturday. But about WFTB: isn't it strange how a book affects you differently at different times? Even though I was furious at this little novel while reading it, it now strikes me as significant in its overall message. How many lives have been destroyed by state paranoid-driven protection programs? Trillions? And hand in hand with paranoia is projection, such as projecting one's own barbarism. Having grown up in the Cold War era I wonder how much of that was pure delusion? And as for the South African application to this novel, thank God for Nelson Mandela. His leadership circumvented millions of deaths. I'm also grateful for South Korea's President Kim Dae Jung, whom I met in 1985. He is committed to defusing the North/South Korean conflict and hopefully will bring that down like the Berlin Wall without bloodshed. How much of that conflict is unnecessary? I find WFTB to have nearly universal application. Robt
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (53 of 56), Read 66 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001 11:35 AM Great post Robt, how fascinating that you met President Kim Dae Jung-there must be a story there! I think that this novel DOES have universal application, I think that's half of why I found it so disturbing. Candy "Whether it's sports, or singing, or writing, or whatever, you just gotta believe in yourself. Just go for it." Britney Spears
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (54 of 56), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 11:02 PM Anyone around still interested in talking about this? I am so struck with the feeling "We have met the enemy and he is us" and here is a line from near the end... "I think: There has been something staring me in the face, and still I do not see it". This is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. Period. disturbed, Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (55 of 56), Read 9 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:21 AM Bo, are you out there? I ask because I think this book is sci-fi. Hey which reminds me I was in library looking at sci-fi section and was surprised at some of the books filed there. Setting Free The Bears by John Irving! Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (56 of 56), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 10:18 AM The more I think about it the more this novel defies definition. I think that is partly what I like about it. Honestly, I was terribly depressed when I read this book. I felt devastated. and yet I read through it again. It is so hauntingly written. I feel as if a lot of the enemy in this novel has to do with apathy. If this main character is from the land of Kafka, which I believe he is from...then his crime is apathy. He knows it to. I doubt it is possible for this novel to need a SPOILER warning, it's just not that kind of a plot driven story. So here is a significant section from the last page or so...he sits to write a memoir of the Empire but is surprised to see what he really writes... "No one who paid a visit to this oasis"I write, "failed to be struck by the charm of life here. We lived in the time of the seasons, of the harvests, of the migrations of the waterbirds. We lived with nothing between us and the stars. We would have made any concession, had we only known what, to go on living here. This was paradise on earth." For a long time I stare at the plea I have written. It would be disappointing to know that the popular slips I have spent so much time on contain a message as devious, as equivocal, as reprehensible as this. "Perhaps by the end of winter,"I think,"when hunger truly bites us, when we are cold and starving, or when the barbarian is truly at the gate, perhaps then I will abandon the locutions of a civil servant with literary ambitions and begin to tell the truth." I think:" I wanted to live outside history. I wanted to live outside the history that Empire imposes on it's subjects, even it's lost subjects. I never wished it for the barbarians that they should have the history of the Empire laid upon them. How can I believe that that is cause for shame?" I think:"I have lived through an eventful year, yet understand no more of it than a babe in arms. Of all the people of this town I am the one least fitted to write a memorial. Better athe blacksmith, with his cries of rage and woe." I think:"But when the barbarians taste bread, new bread and mulberry jam, bread and gooseberry jam, they will be won over to our ways. They will find that they are unable to live without the skills of men who know how to rear the pacific grains, without the arts of women who know how to use the benign fruits. I think:"When one day people come scratching around in the ruins, they will be more interested in the relics from the desert than in anything I may leave behind. And rightly so. then I think:"There has been something staring me in the face, and still I do not see it." the last line: Like much else nowadays I leave it feeling stupid, like a man who lost his way long ago but presses on along a road that may lead nowhere. I was very much struck by the descriptions and mood here reminded me of the epilogue in Blood Meridian! And his apathy was so sad.(except I agree with what was said by Dean about reparation and taking the girl to desert) Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (57 of 59), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 08:18 PM Candy, I can't agree that he was apathetic. He is the only one who tries to help the boy and the old man at the beginning. He also tries to help the barbarian blind girl. If he is apathetic at the end, it is because he has been badly hurt, I think. Jane
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (58 of 59), Read 18 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, July 12, 2001 11:25 PM I liked this book a lot, and didn't find particularly strange, merely powerful. This was my second reading. I agree, Jane, that he wasn't apathetic. I think much of the point of the book, is that he felt he was behaving in an apathetic manner. And I think he felt that way because no matter what he did he knew he was helpless to make one whit of difference in what was going to happen. Ruth "We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies." John Updike
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (59 of 59), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@starband.net) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 07:57 AM I think he wanted to be apathetic, but because he was basically a good human being, he was unable to be. I know I posted a quotation earlier that may have timed out, about his wishing he had never gone to see what was happening to the prisoners (the first ones). But since he did, he was unable to not know it. Sherry
Topic: Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (60 of 60), Read 5 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, July 13, 2001 10:31 AM OOOH thank you these are great thoughts! yes, I see that, good point about him WANTING to be apathetic, or giving up for various reasons. I think it is hugely important about how he saw the man and boy and girl. And tried to help. Actually, I think he DID help by taking her to her group. and that is so important how he seemed to feel helpless to make any kind of change or act towards life and freedom. Ruth, I would love some recommendations of books you pair whith this that make it seem un-strange. I can not think of any books like this or in the style with the content, please share???!!! I will go and get them from library. I found this so cool. Candy "If elections worked we'd outlaw them" Utah Philips Post New Topic | Reply to: "Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee"

 
J. M. Coetzee
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