Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Out walking this morning I listed to The Book Show interview of Bioethics Professor Peter Singer talking about the collection of essays by philosophers on the work of the writer JM Coetzee that he has recently co-edited. There was a fair bit of lamenting between Ramona and Peter over Coetzee's consistent and continuous refusal to give interviews or talk much at all about his writing. Apparently, once Coetzee agreed to give a lecture about animal rights and, rather than deliver what one would expect for a lecture, spent the time reading a section from his novel Elizabeth Costello, leaving his listeners to wonder how much Costello is Coetzee. Something that happens in the reading of the five Coetzee novels I have read. What is fact and what is fiction? What is memoir and what is imagined? Whose voice is this?
Listening to this morning's program I found myself reflecting on how difficult it must be for Coetzee to maintain his stance. Sure, he might be a very shy person but in this day and age where there is so much pressure for authors to talk, or at least write publicly about their work, it must be incredibly difficult to 'stick to his guns'. The tendency to want to explain things or to make sure we are not misunderstood seems almost innate. I am so glad that Coetzee doesnt cave in. It would seem to me that the kind of writing he does, classified as fiction, comes from a particular part of the psyche - and this is not the part that analyses and is rational. Having been an academic for most of his life the distinction between these ways of being with our mind must be very clear to Coetzee. To move from the place of the irrational, of memory and imagination, of feeling and symbol to then be explaining and reasoning would lose so much of the power of that writing. Somethings need to remain mysterious, to be pondered over, to be felt and lived rather than justified, clarified and explained. I cant imagine Haruki Murakami being able to explain some of his works if he tried! I have just finished reading Kafka of the Shore. I loved it - so totally my kind of story with its dreamlike, mysterious, musical and totally irrational but symbolic and metaphorically meaningful goings on. This is the third book of his I have read now. Cant wait to read another one! It is like communing with the deep wisdom of the unconscious mind. Doesnt always make sense but the puzzle feels worth pondering over for the gems one just might uncover.