The Art of J.M. Coetzee and the Legacy of European Modernism: The Kafka Intertext in Elizabeth Costello
J.M. Coetzee’s art is deeply rooted in European intellectual tradition; it relies on European philosophical and literary models. However, in contemporary literary scholarship there is an ongoing debate concerning Coetzee’s affiliation to two twentieth-century European avant-garde literary movements – modernism and postmodernism. On the one hand, Coetzee is frequently referred to as a self-conscious postmodernist (Lowry 1999) and the first South African writer who created experimental novels using the achievements of European postmodernism (Head 2009: 23–24). On the other hand, the affinity of Coetzee’s work to the writings of Beckett and Kafka has led Derek Attridge to describe his art as “late modernism” or “neomodernism” (2004: 2–6).
This article aims to explore Coetzee’s modernist connections by concentrating on the analysis of Kafka borrowings in the novel Elizabeth Costello (2003); in particular, it seeks to demonstrate how Coetzee’s use of the Kafka intertext serves to highlight such complex issues as representation and reality, artistic imagination and authorial responsibility, literary tradition and innovation.
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