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Travelling Texts: J.M. Coetzee and Other Writers

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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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Reflections on Ethics and Creativity: A Discussion of Literary Works by J.M. Coetzee, Robert Musil and Czesław Miłosz

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Ethics in the Works of Musil and Coetzee

The long list of writers whose works have been examined by J.M. Coetzee includes the Austrian author Robert Musil (1880–1942). Coetzee has written three texts on this writer: an essay (1986) later reprinted in Doubling the Point, an article for The New York Review of Books (1999), and an introduction to a new translation of Musil’s novel, The Confusions of Young Törless (2001). Replying to David Attwell’s question about Musil’s influence on his fiction, Coetzee opposes Musil’s florid style to his own, which he calls “hard and dry” (Coetzee 1992: 208). Indeed, there is little similarity between Musil’s essayistic prose, as known from his magnum opus The Man Without Qualities, and Coetzee’s succinct and allusive manner of writing. Perhaps, the concise form of Musil’s short stories is more akin to Coetzee’s style, but it is mainly the thematic similarities that are likely to attract the readers’ attention. Those similarities are important insofar as they reach to the heart of Coetzee’s prose, namely his preoccupation with the question of ethics. In the discussion of ethics in Coetzee’s prose, especially in Waiting for the Barbarians, this article will refer to the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, in particular to his notion of the Other. In the second part of this article, a connection will be made between Coetzee’s understanding of ethics and his philosophy of composition as presented in one of his most intriguing books, Elizabeth Costello.

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