AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

J M Coetzee Quotes
Africa is a Country | August 7th, 2009

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“The New York Review of Books” excerpted a few pages from J M Coetzee’s new novel, “Summertime,” to be published later this month in the UK and in October in the US. I have already posted one excerpt. Here is a second:

3 June 1975

From where he and the Truscotts live one has only to stroll a kilometer in a southerly direction to come face to face with Pollsmoor. Pollsmoor—no one bothers to call it Pollsmoor Prison—is a place of incarceration ringed around with high walls and barbed wire and watch towers. Once upon a time it stood all alone in a waste of sandy scrubland. But over the years, first hesitantly, then more confidently, the suburban developments have crept closer, until now, hemmed in by neat rows of homes from which model citizens emerge each morning to play their part in the national economy, it is Pollsmoor that has become the anomaly in the landscape.

It is of course an irony that the South African gulag should protrude so obscenely into white suburbia, that the same air that he and the Truscotts breathe should have passed through the lungs of miscreants and criminals. But to the barbarians, as Zbigniew Herbert has pointed out, irony is simply like salt: you crunch it between your teeth and enjoy a momentary savor; when the savor is gone, the brute facts are still there. What does one do with the brute fact of Pollsmoor once the irony is used up?

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