The Childhood of Jesus

J. M. Coetzee, Author
J.M. Coetzee. Viking, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-01465-1
Reviewed on: 06/17/2013
Release date: 09/03/2013
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-84655-738-5
Hardcover - 978-1-84655-769-9
Paperback - 277 pages - 978-0-14-312576-1
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4481-5586-6
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-09-958155-0
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In this captivating and provocative new novel, a small boy who has been renamed David, and Simón, the man who has become David’s caretaker since David was separated from his mother, have immigrated to a nameless country. Simón soon finds work on the docks, is given an apartment for new arrivals, and sets about the impossible task of finding David’s mother, whose name they do not know and whose face the boy does not remember. One day, Simón glimpses a woman inside a wealthy household—a woman who very likely isn’t David’s mother—and becomes instantly, illogically convinced that she should raise the child. He approaches her intent on convincing her to be “a mother” to David; what unfolds is their story: mistakes made in the name of love and choices no one would wish to encounter. Most fascinating is the timeless, almost placeless country itself, which provides the immigrants with essentials–food, shelter, education, and modest employment–but denies them what Simón discovers matters most: irony, sensuality, intensity, and opinion. At times, the questions driving the allegory become almost too explicit, as when Simón asks a woman with whom he has just done the disappointing “business of sex” if “the price we pay for this new life, the price of forgetting, may be too high?” As in the past, Coetzee’s (Disgrace) precise prose is at once rich and austere, lean and textured, deceptively straightforward and yet expansive, as he considers what is required, not just of the body, but by the heart. Agent: Rema Dilanyan, Peter Lampack Agency. (Sept.)
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