The new issue of Bookforum is now available, and it includes a review by Siddhartha Deb of J.M. Coetzee’s new novel Diary of a Bad Year. In the U.K., where the book first appeared, the reviews have been mixed, but this early piece here in the U.S. is just lovely. Here is its concluding paragraph:
The books have all been short, the language deceptively simple, but Coetzee’s recurrent themes have been no less than the vital signs of a culture, one possibly in its death throes. Diary of a Bad Year may be his most successful diagnosis yet of what we are suffering from, one that even offers hope in the form of resistance, critical thought, and the odd, imperfect humanity that emerges in the story of Anya and Señor C. In other writers, such hope would appear trite, but we know that Coetzee is no sentimentalist. His humanism has always been hard-won, wrested from those early lessons in authoritarianism and opposition, and this brilliant novel shows how much better prepared Coetzee is than many Western writers to come to terms with our new age.
When I was in Europe earlier this fall I was frustrated to see that the Italian translation of the novel was already published while we here in the U.S. had to wait until January. Another six weeks to go!