J.M. Coetzee


1940

9 February: John Maxwell Coetzee born to Zacharias and Vera Wehmeyer Coetzee in Worchester, a rural Afrikaans community in Cape Town. His father is a lawyer for the city government and his mother is a teacher.

1948

The coming to power of the Nationalist Party brings grave consequences for the Coetzee family. Because of his opposition to the legalization of apartheid, Zacharias is dismissed as a government lawyer, and the family moves back to the farm in Worchester.

Zacharias' family were Afrikaners, people of Dutch South African descent. For the most part, Afrikaners were Protestants belonging to the Dutch Reformed Church and spoke Afrikaans, a Dutch South African dialect. Because of the political dissent between the English and the Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans, the school systems for whites were segregated along linguistic lines. JM, however, did not fit neatly into Afrikaans culture. He attended English-medium classes and claimed to be Catholic. He loved reading English literature and never fully identified with rural Afrikaans children, whom he found to be rough, coarse, and poor. Although Afrikaans nationalism was at its height, the people were in the midst of an agricultural depression.

1951

The family moves back to Cape Town, where Zacharias opens a law firm (which eventually fails because of his inability to manage money). The family becomes more and more dependent on Vera's earnings as a teacher. As a young child, JM is very close to his mother but has trouble understanding the nuanced racism of South Africa.

1960

Receives a BA in English from the University of Cape Town.

1961

Receives a BA in Mathematics from the University of Cape Town.

1962-65

Works as a computer programmer in England, completes his thesis on Ford Maddox Ford and earns his MA from the University of Cape Town.

1963

Marries Philippa Jubber. They have one son in 1966 and one daughter in 1968.

1968

Begins as a professor at SUNY Buffalo.

1969

PhD from U of Texas. His dissertation is on Beckett's fiction.

1972

Returns to the University of Cape Town as a professor of literature after being refused permanent residence in the US.

1974

Dusklands published.

1977

In the Heart of the Country publishd.

1980

Waiting for the Barbarians published. The Nobel Prize committee calls it "a political thriller in the tradition of Joseph Conrad, in which the idealist's naiveté opens the gates to horror."

Divorces Philippa.

1984

Booker Prize for The Life and Times of Michael K. JMC does not attend the award ceremony.

1986

Foe published.

1990

Age of Iron published.

1994

Master of Petersburg published.

1997

Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life published.

1999

Booker Prize for Disgrace. Again he does not attend the award ceremony.

2002

Emigrates to Australia.

Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II published.

2003

Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons published.

Wins the Nobel Prize.

2005

Slow Man published.

2007

Diary of a Bad Year published.

Inner Workings: Literary Essays, 2000-2005 published.

2009

Summertime published.

2011

Scenes from Provincial Life published. This is an edited single volume of Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II, and Summertime. Most critics agree that this is the closest JMC will come to an autobiography.

2013

The Childhood of Jesus published. It is longlisted for the Booker Prize.

2016

The Schooldays of Jesus published. Again, it is longlisted for the Booker Prize.



Truth is not spoken in anger. Truth is spoken, if it ever comes to be spoken, in love. The gaze of love is not deluded. It sees what is best in the beloved even when what is best in the beloved finds it hard to emerge into the light.