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Travelling Texts: J.M. Coetzee and Other Writers


Robert Kusek and Bozena Kucala

Travelling Texts: J.M. Coetzee and Other Writers is a collection of essays on mutual influences and inspirations between authors, with a special focus on J.M. Coetzee. Bringing together a group of international scholars, the book offers a wide range of perspectives on how canonical and less canonical texts travel between literatures and cultures. Chapter One is devoted to connections between Coetzee’s writings and Polish literature and theatre. Chapter Two is concerned with Dostoevsky’s presence in his fiction. The essays in Chapter Three identify and analyse connections and inspirations between Coetzee and other European writers, with a special focus on Central Europe as a distinct cultural entity. The collection’s scope is extended by the essays in Chapter Four, which deal with several writers for whom Africa has been a source of inspiration.
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Shame and Morality: John Maxwell Coetzee’s Disgrace in the Context of Walter Benjamin’s Reading of Franz Kafka’s The Trial


In his 1999 novella The Lives of Animals, J.M. Coetzee, a South-African novelist and the 2003 Nobel Laureate in Literature, argues through his literary alter ego, a character named Elizabeth Costello, that the reason why it appears morally permissible to treat animals cruelly is because they are thought to lack the faculty of rational thinking and, as such, they can be treated as mere things or as tools devised solely for enhancing the quality of human life. Although such an assumption is based on such philosophers as Plato, Thomas Aquinas and Descartes, Costello’s argumentation is very close to that of Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher notorious for his support of the Nazi ideology, who in his 1949 lecture entitled “Das Ge-stell” (“En-framing”) had compared the automatization of modern farming – battery farms, factory farms and mechanical fattening – to the mechanization of mass killing in the death camps of the Second World War. During the lecture, given at a Bremen gentlemen’s club, he is reported to have expressed the following thought:

Agriculture is now a motorized food-industry – in essence, the same as the manufacturing of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockading and starving of nations, the same as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs.

(Sheehan 1988: 41)1 ← 163 | 164 →

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