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Elizabeth Costello

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Elizabeth Costello.pdf | Language: English
    J. M. Coetzee(Author)

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Elizabeth Costello

Elizabeth Costello

4.2 (14833)
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Book details

  • PDF | 240 pages
  • J. M. Coetzee(Author)
  • The Viking Press; 1st edition (October 13, 2003)
  • English
  • 3
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Foster Corbin on December 15, 2003

    Elizabeth Costello is an Australian novelist in eclipse. The reader becomes acquainted with her through a series of lectures. Although she had published critically successful novels a long time ago, she is now reduced to the lecture circuit. Ms. Costello is often bored with the endless dinners and interviews at colleges and television stations; but she has no trouble, however, taking the money for her trouble. She at one point describes a young college instructor, who picks her up at the airport before a lecture, and people like her, rather cruelly, I thought: "His mother has a word for people like this. She calls them the goldfish. One thinks they are small and harmless, she says, because each wants no more than the tiniest nibble of flesh, the merest hemidemimiligram." She goes on to say that she no longer answers fan letters from these "goldfish" because they sell her letters on the autograph market. Many of us have witnessed similar condesending attitudes from "visiting" writers who cannot wait to get out of an auditorium and God help you if you ask them for their autograph.Ms. Costello gets into trouble because of one lecture when she equates the Holocaust with the modern day slaughter of "innocent" animals. "She had spoken on that occasion on what she saw and still sees as the enslavement of whole animal populations. A slave: a being whose life and death are in the hands of another. What else are cattle, sheep, poultry? The death camps would not have been dreamed up without the example of the meat-processing plants before them." I doubt that many Holocaust survivors would agree with this analogy. An extremely complex character, Ms. Costello has qualities that are endearing. She makes a most unselfish offer to a dying man for example. Her account of her first encounter with pure evil is moving as well. A humanist, she also discusses with her rigid Catholic sister-- who is a Sister-- why she believes a living Christ makes much more sense than a dying one. She does not have a systematic philosophy. She doesn't have to; she is a mere teller of tales. The final chapter, "At The Gate", is in the tradition of and as good as anything Kafka wrote. ELIABETH COSTELLO is a strange though beautifully written novel and very different from what Mr. Coetzee usually writes-- or at least those novels of his I have read-- but I found it altogether intriguing. Mr. Coetzee's view of the universe is dark; but, after all, we do live in a world that has produced its share of Hitlers and Stalins and Saddam Husseins.

  • By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON on July 8, 2005

    Here's a novel that many accuse of not being a novel at all, at being a polemic, a bunch of essays and diatribes, disguised as a novel. True perhaps but the craft and aristry of Coetzee is so exquisite that he pulls it off. Here's the situation: An aging writer Elizabeth Costello, award-winnning novelist and humanist and animal lover, is asked to lecture after winning her awards and she speaks on a variety of subjects--the role and responsibility of the novelist, the nature of evil, Christianity vs. Greek philosophy, the brutality of animals and an argument for vegetarianism, the nature of the third-world novel. Each subject is presented in a separate chapter in which Costello either lectures or argues with other intelligent people, so that you get, not just Costello's worldview, but a vigorous opposition.In this way, Costello's views don't go unchallenged. Also her views, especially comparing the slaughter of animals to the Holocaust, causes great controversy and animosity between her and the community. In another case, she accuses the novelist Paul West of exploiting Nazi evil in his graphic and indulgent portrayals of it resulting in the writing community to accuse her of cencorship. These contentious scenes give her arguments a context and a drama that essays wouldn't have provided.Vulnerable, fragile at times, not always prepared to answer her detractors, Elizabeth Costello is a very human advocate for her positions and never comes across as a bullying superhuman to mouthpiece Coetzee's philosophy. He's too subtle an artist for that.I think there is a place for a novel of ideas. Gulliver's Travels and Voltaire certainly were such novels and Elizabeth Costello is worthy of following their lead.

  • By Bunny A. Goodjohn on September 4, 2013

    This felt like a collection of great essays pulled together as fiction...and for me, that worked. All of the chapters, I felt, stood independently, and they made a unique whole.

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