Nobel prize-winner Coetzee publishes his "Diary of a Bad Year"

By Margarita Snegireva. "Diary of a Bad Year" is a book by South African author J. M. Coetzee, who won the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature. It was released by Text Publishing in Australia on 3 September 2007, in the United Kingdom by Harvill Secker (an imprint of Random House) on 6 September, and in the United States on 27 December.

The protagonist, called Señor C. by the other characters, is an aging South African writer living in Australia. the novel is composed of essays and musings by the writer, as well as diary entires by both Señor C. and Anya, a neighbor he has asked to type up his essays. The essays, which take up the larger part of each page, deal mostly with contemporary issues like George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Guantánamo, and terrorism. The diary entries appear beneath them and reflect the relationship that develops between the two characters.

“Diary of a Bad Year” is not the first among J. M. Coetzee works of fiction to force readers to consider the friable boundary between fiction and nonfiction. “Elizabeth Costello” reveals its eponymous heroine, a literary celebrity, through a series of lectures given by Costello, their content familiar from essays published previously - by J. M. Coetzee. Thus instructed to conflate Costello with her creator, Coetzee’s readers encounter her again, in his following novel, “Slow Man,” which finds Costello taking up residence in the home of the protagonist, Paul Rayment, as he examines his life in the wake of a crippling accident. “Like it or not, I will be with you a while yet,” Costello informs her reluctant host. She’s brought a “hefty typescript” with her, and it appears she is the author of Paul’s fate, nudging him toward fulfillment. Or is she a product of his imagination? Certain of Costello’s exasperated comments to Paul - “I did not ask for you” - imply she has no more control over their peculiar pairing than does he. “Diary of a Bad Year” forgoes the conceit of a perfunctorily named and differentiated alter ego by following the late career of Señor C, who, like Coetzee, is a South African writer transplanted to Australia and the author of a novel titled “Waiting for the Barbarians.”

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