Synopsis [Heading 1]

Life & TImes of Michael K: Story of a sad but strong man [Heading 3]

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Life & Times of Michael K
Life & Times of Michael K

Life & Times of Michael K is a story about a dejected mans depressing life during a turbulent period of civil war in South Africa. Unlike typical stories involving dejected men that provides prevailing moralistic tones and life-lessons, this book simply describes and narrates a life of a man.

Michael is a simple and passive man who depends on his devoting mother, Anna K, to give him directions in his life. Then, one day, Michael and Anna decide to escape from the polluted city of Cape Town to Annas hometown in Prince Albert. Michaels journey was to simply reach Prince Albert, but after Anna dies during the trip and Michael finds out his mothers farm had been abandoned, Michael realizes he is on his own to decide his fate.

Life & Times of Michael K is a historical biographical fiction that emphasizes on character development. As the title of the book implies, the book highlights Michael's transformation from a passive, hopeless individual to the determined man who makes his living by farming. Such changes in character are presented through alternating perspectives and point of views from chapter to chapter. In the first chapter, the third person narrator literally depicts sequences of events without presenting characters’ thoughts; the second chapter is narrated by a doctor who studied Michaels behaviors in labor camp, and through his personal narrative, the book passionately praises how Michaels changes in behaviors are perceived by society. Then, in chapter three, the third person narrator describes Michaels actions along with his thoughts to show that his changes lauded in Chapter 2 were motivated by simple causes. Through these different perspectives, the book effectively portrays character developments of Michael in both perspective of society and Michael himself.
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Review [Heading 1]

So, why did Coetzee write this book?[Heading 3]

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When you want to revel upon abstract thoughts and abstruse truth about life, Life & Times of Michael K would be a great book for one to read. However, since I am not fond of such vague concepts and intangible ideas, I will not recommend this book to anyone who shares similar mind with me.
The book seems to have clear focus in the beginning, when Michael takes his mother to Prince Albert. Nonetheless, the book completely looses its focus when Michael realizes that his mothers farm in her hometown had been abandoned. Without apparent reasons and transitions, Michael ends up in labor camps, mountain sides, an abandoned mansion, a hospital, and a jail. Although I do understand that the author of the book tried to convey how bemused Michael was by dramatic changes, such as the loss of his mother, by depicting his visitations to random places, it was absolutely unnecessary to devote the half of the book to express such a simple idea! It could be possible that each one of places mentioned above could have profound implications and meanings behind them; nonetheless, there was no way for ordinary readers who read for leisure would bother to figure the implications out.
Another disappointment to the novel is its character development. Even though character development seems to be the key feature of this book, the majority of the book (Chapter 1, which consists of 126 pages out of 184 pages) fails to connect Michael with the readers. Since Chapter 1 of the book continues on with cold, third person narrative, it is hard for the readers to follow Michaels emotional changes and changes in characters throughout the chapter. Then, in the second chapter, as the perspective shifts, the readers are suddenly bombarded with changes that Michael made; such abrupt and dramatic changes further disconnect the readers from the main character.
This book is definitely not suitable for entertainment but is intended for literary studies. You should only read this book when you have school or academic assignments on it.
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Author Biography
J.M. Coetzee
J.M. Coetzee

J. M. Coetzee. John Maxwell Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa. His notable novels include, In the Heart of the Country, Waiting for the Barbarians Life & Times of Michael K, and Disgrace. Furthermore, through his publications, he won the Booker Prize and became nominated as the Nobel Literature laureate in 2003. Currently, J.M Coetzee is living in Adelaide, South Australia and is working as a professor at the University of Adelaide.

Links

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2003/coetzee-bio.html
http://www.nytimes.com/1983/12/06/books/coetzee-michael.html