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Literary Spaces in the Selected Works of J.M. Coetzee


Katarzyna Karwowska

This book closely examines the processes governing the construction of literary spaces in the selected works of J.M. Coetzee, focusing in particular on the writer’s subversive and destructive treatment of traditional modes of representation which participated in the imperial enterprise and served to overcome the ontological insecurity of colonisers. This strategy results in the formation of heterogenous, fluid and open locations which can be deciphered along the postmodern spatial theories of Foucault, Augé, Deleuze and Guattari. The transformation of topographies not only cleanses them of the conventional residue in preparation for alternative spatial rearrangements, but also initiates processes which reverse the colonising project by breaching the gap between the other and the self.
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Chapter Three: Age of Iron: Spaces of Crisis, Spaces of Awakening

← 60 | 61 →Chapter Three


One difference that sets Age of Iron apart from the rest of Coetzee’s other novels is the fact that the readers can precisely identify the time in which its events take place. Moreover, the author also reveals the years during which the text was written. In the first case it is the year 1986, in the second – the time span between 1986 and 1989. Those years mark a very heated moment in the history of the Republic of South Africa: these are the times of growing political and social unrest (introduction of State of Emergency) and the final years of apartheid, in which the system turned the whole range of its violent methods of control against the youngest representatives of the oppressed. The response of the state to the school boycotts by black students acting under the slogan “Liberation now, education later” was war waged against children who “for the first time were included among political detainees – held without charges and without trial” and, when things went worse, “were killed and tortured by security forces” (Gallagher 195–6). The turbulence spread from schools across the whole country, inciting fierce riots in black townships. However, for Coetzee this period was also especially difficult on personal level. In the short period from 1985 to 1989 he suffered the loss of his mother, his father and his son. Consequently, the novel’s central theme is related with death, dying and processes of transformation/transition. Public and private spheres of life merge as a lonely woman...

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