Quotable: J.M. Coetzee

I’m teaching J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians in my advanced fiction class and while writing down page numbers for my notes I came across this lovely passage, where the Magistrate reflects upon the role he and Colonel Joll play in the functioning of the empire:

For I was not, as I liked to think, the indulgent pleasure-loving opposite of the cold rigid colonel. I was the lie that Empire tells itself when times are easy, he the truth that Empire tells when harsh winds blow. Two sides of imperial rule, no more, no less.

If you haven’t read this gem of a novel, you really should.


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