Coetzee, J. M.

1940–
South African novelist

The South African writer and literary critic John Michael Coetzee is known for novels that explore the effects of apartheid in his homeland. Coetzee studied at the University of Cape Town and at the University of Texas, where he received a Ph.D. in literature. He then returned to SOUTH AFRICA despite his opposition to the government’s racial policies.

Among his best-known works is the Life and Times of Michael K, which won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize in 1983. The book tells the story of an uneducated man struggling to understand and deal with the civil war in his country. His 1986 novel Foe, a retelling of Daniel Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe, examines how people can be enslaved by language. In 1999 Coetzee won a second Booker Award for Disgrace, a novel that looks at the problems of South Africa after apartheid. In addition to writing and literary criticism, Coetzee teaches English at the University of Cape Town and translates works from Afrikaans (a language based on Dutch) into English. (See also Literature.)

Coetzee, J. M.