Waiting for the Barbarians

Waiting for the Barbarians

Book - 2010
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A modern classic by Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee.  His latest novel,  The Schooldays of Jesus , is now available from Viking.  Late Essays: 2006-2016  will be available January 2018. 

Waiting for the Barbarians centers on the crisis of the conscience of the Magistrate--a loyal servant of the Empire working in a tiny frontier town, doing his best to ignore an inevitable war with the "barbarians." After he witnesses the cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war, he reconsiders his role in the regime and carries out a quixotic act of rebellion.

Mark Rylance ( Wolf Hall , Bridge of Spies ), Ciro Guerra, and producer Michael Fitzgerald are teaming up to to bring J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians to the big screen.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2010, c1980
ISBN: 9780143116929
Characteristics: 180 p. ; 20 cm


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Aug 02, 2017

Such a thoughtful and compact tale! One can reread it numerous times and still learn from it. At a superficial level its simple (sentences and vocabulary) but its narrative is profound!

Jul 26, 2015

the themes of power and justice, oppressor and oppressor are set forth in a novel about a fictional country. while interesting in places it is very difficult to read a number of parts of the book.

May 10, 2015

"Thus the expeditionary forces against the barbarians prepares for its campaign, ravaging the earth, wasting our patrimony."
A powerful, disturbing, and resonant tale from the South African Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee. Coetzee takes on one of the great themes of the 20th century: empire. Told in the first person by an unnamed magistrate in a colonial town, the book interrogates the myths of empire and imperialism and the way it infects both those involved in spreading it and its victims (the "barbarians" of the title). There are echoes of writers like Conrad, Orwell, and Greene, all of whom explored similar territories, but it may Kafka who is the key influence on Coetzee and his work as the same allegorical power and strangeness as the melancholy Czech. Also see "Disgrace" and "Life and Time of Michael K." "It's the fault of Empire!"

Aug 10, 2013

Outstanding book in both the prose and subject matter. Highly recommend and a fairly quick read.

Jul 18, 2012

I agree with Brian's review. This is a deeply disturbing and complex allegory. It is depressing, pessimistic and violent, but never gratuitously so. Coetzee is a master of his craft who is capable of biting social commentary without ever sounding patronizing or superior.

brianreynolds Apr 05, 2012

Why am I just discovering J.M. Coetzee now? Truly, it makes me wonder. And how can a book published more than thirty years ago that resonates so loudly today have so utterly flown under my radar? Reading Waiting for the Barbarians for the first time at age 66 felt like realizing someone had forgotten to teach me cursive writing in public school. It is a primer on the abuse of power; it is a frightening look through the (sun glassed) eyes of a well-meaning "civilized" society at the disenfranchised, dispossessed, disparaged and misunderstood 'barbarians" who inhabit their periphery. It is an allegory not anchored in any particular time or place, but one unmistakably present in every generation on every continent, recounted in grisly detail in nearly every copy of the daily news. This is bleak. This is irony. This is winter at its darkest and most hopeless moment. At least, I can now forgive whomever forgot to place it on my required reading list decades ago.

Mar 17, 2012

Simple elegant prose telling a grim fairy tale of an evil empire. The magistrate and Stoll characters will not be forgotten.


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