Feste Ansichten in his own person: J.M. Coetzee speaks
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Three recent books by J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello (2003), Diary of a Bad Year (2007), and Here and Now (2013), have included extensive expressions of opinion. The wide-ranging discussions in these books cover topics from political philosophy, language, animal rights, and paedophilia to music, food, and sport. There is substantial continuity in the opinions expressed, and the characters or personae expressing these views also have a good deal in common. Nevertheless, these opinions are expressed in three explicitly different personae. With each of these books the personae are progressively more closely identifiable with Coetzee himself. Elizabeth Costello, in the book of that name, is a character who crosses gender and national boundaries from her creator. JC in Diary of a Bad Year shares at least some biographical circumstances with Coetzee—land of birth, gender, initials, occupation, for example. Then, in Here and Now, we are presented with what purports transparently to be the author J.M. Coetzee’s own voice in correspondence with Paul Auster. How do I, as a reader and a critic, negotiate this progression? Just how much license does the apparently closer correspondence between author and writing persona give me to believe that I know what Coetzee ‘really’ thinks or believes?