Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Youth - J.M.Coetzee

This is my first read from J.M.Coetzee..Even before I was half-way through the book,I fell in love with his writing style and ordered a couple of books on the same day..The author J.M.Coetzee is a South African novelist,winner of Noble prize in literature..He has also won The Man Booker prize(twice)..'Youth' is a autobiographical novel,set in the period of 1960's..It falls under the category of a semi fictional autobiography..

Image from Google
Coming to the story:sorry,a habitual mistake..Actually there is no story in this book..It's all about a young man's thoughts and experiences..John from South Africa travels to London leaving behind his trapped mother and feckless father to build a career as an artist..His dream was to become a poet and so he believes that there will be a woman,destined to be part of his life,to bring up the 'flame' and passion within him..Initially he works as a computer programmer for IBM,but he struggles to fit in the practical atmosphere of the American company in UK..Furthermore,London life leaves him completely isolated..Nobody befriends him for his unsophisticated nature and lack of warmth..But he keep searching for his soul-mate who'll find his real charm (?) concealed by his unattractive personality..

Later he leaves IBM and joins International computers..While working there he realizes,that things like art,love,passion and poetry couldn't be produced using brains and perfect planning..These are the sensitive emotions that have to be developed quite naturally when someone completely lost in the process..In that process,one should reach such a blissful state where he couldn't even aware of himself or his existence..However John indulges himself in many relationships with women like Sarah,Jaqueline,Caroline and Marianne etc.There is a big list I don't even remember..:) But he fails to handle those relationships because of his selfishness and uncertainty in taking responsibility..Moreover he is too much conscious and always aware of his thoughts in every move with them..Thus his relationships with women lack the basic ingredient called 'passion'..Now where there is no passion there is no existence for any creativity or any form of art..As time passes by,he realizes this simple fact..
J.M.Coetzee-Image from Google
This book mainly depicts the protagonist's thoughts and uncertainties between 21 -24 yrs age..The central character is a victim of racism and political unrest of South Africa..The novel deals with the struggle in the crucial time of youth where the protagonist actually thinks that he knows everything after merely acquiring knowledge by reading books..But we all well aware of the fact that real world works in a different way..There is another similar character Ganapathy from India who works with the protagonist for the same International computers..These two guys reflect the two sides of  the same coin..

The novel basically deals with the typical tendencies of youth,i.e.limited to a particular age group..But I'm sure whosoever reads this,would definitely go back to his memories of youth..The readers would take a plunge in John's flowing thoughts..We can easily relate with the skepticism and confusion in John's character in his initial years in London..The author completely penetrated through the depths of human consciousness..Somehow,I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if I would have read some world famous poets,though the author has not limited the artist synonym to a poet..You can find some wonderful analyzations about world famous artists,writers,poets like Pablo Picasso,Ezra Pound (seems his favy),T.S.Elliot,Flaubert,Monica Vitti,Henry Miller,William Wordsworth,Satyajit Ray etc..This book is nothing but a journey with a youngster who'll keep your journey interesting and engaging with his memories,confusions and predictions..All you have to do is just keep watching him..very closely :)

Here are few favourite lines from the book:
For he will be an artist, that has long been settled. If for the time being he must be obscure and ridiculous, that is because it is the lot of the artist to suffer obscurity and ridicule until the day when he is revealed in his true powers and the scoffers and mockers fall silent

Having mistresses is part of an artist's life: even if he steers clear of the trap of marriage, as he will certainly do, he is going to have to find a way of living with women. Art cannot be fed on deprivation alone, on longing, loneliness. There must be intimacy, passion, love as well.

Picasso, who is a great artist, perhaps the greatest of all, is a living example. Picasso falls in love with women, one after another. One after another they move in with him, share his life, model for him. Out of the passion that flares up anew with each new mistress, the Doras and Pilars whom chance brings to his doorstep are reborn into everlasting art. That is how it is done

If ever he tries to transfigure a woman, he will not transfigure her as cruelly as Picasso does, bending and twisting her body like metal in a fiery furnace. Writers are not like painters anyway: they are more dogged, more subtle.
Is that the fate of all women who become mixed up with artists: to have their worst or their best extracted and worked into fiction?

In fact he would not dream of going into therapy. The goal of therapy is to make one happy. What is the point of that? Happy people are not interesting. Better to accept the burden of unhappiness and try to turn it into some thing worthwhile, poetry or music or painting: that is what he believes

Russia may have produced some interesting monsters but as artists the Russians have nothing to teach. Civilization since the eighteenth century has been an Anglo-French affair.

Women love artists because they burn with an inner flame, a flame that consumes yet paradoxically renews all that it touches.

But fortunately, artists do not have to be morally admirable people. All that matters is that they create great art. If his own art is to come out of the more contemptible side of himself, so be it. Flowers grow best on dungheaps, as Shakespeare never tires of saying. 

Normal people find it hard to be bad. Normal people, when they feel badness flare up within them, drink, swear, commit violence. Badness is to them like a fever: they want it out of their system, they want to go back to being normal. But artists have to live with their fever, whatever its nature, good or bad. The fever is what makes them artists; the fever must be kept alive. That is why artists can never be wholly present to the world: one eye has always to be turned inward.

America is not England. America is hard and merciless: if by some miracle he bluffed his way into a job there, he would soon be found out. Besides, he has read Allen Ginsberg, read William Burroughs. He knows what America does to artists: sends them mad, locks them up, drives them out

Most of what he reads he does not understand, but he is used to not understanding. All he is searching for at present is the moment in history when either-or is chosen and and/or discarded
s the self he sees at such moments merely what he appears to be, or is it what he really is? What if Oscar Wilde is right, and there is no deeper truth than appearance? Is it possible to be dull and ordinary not only on the surface but to one's deepest depths, and yet be an artist? Might T S. Eliot, for instance, be secretly dull to his depths, and might Eliot's claim that the artist's personality is irrelevant to his work be nothing but a stratagem to conceal his own dullness?To know one's own mind too well spells, in his view, the death of the creative spark


Ravish Mani said...

Sounds interesting! You did your job very well. It invoked a thirst to read the book. Thanks for sharing :)

Ananya Tales said...

Sounds like a good book..do share more..

Roohi Bhatnagar said...

Loved your review. I'll definitely go for this one :) Thanks..

Found In Folsom said...

Hey Nagini, today when I saw your post publication; I was thinking I should tell you about a book I finished the other day. And see what a coincidence...the book I wanted to refer to you also is from a South African writer. :) Please do read Cry, the beloved Country. It is a great book. So much of pain though...I will pick this one up..I didn't read your review completely as I didn't want to spoil the suspense :P

Indrani said...

It is like you did a study on this. Great write up.

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ Found in Folsom,
Latha Jee,Thank you so much for your suggestion..Will read for sure.మీరు సజెస్ట్ చేసారంటే మస్ట్ బీ అ జెమ్ :) థాంక్స్ అండీ :)

Ramakrishnan Ramanathan said...

Nice interesting review. Looks like a good read.

Anonymous said...

Great write up. Loved it.


A Homemaker's Utopia said...

@ SomIde,
Very happy to see your here SOmide garu..Thanks a lot :)