The  Childhood of Jesus

Christopher Tayler writes:

A few months before the publication of Dusklands in 1974, J.C. Kannemeyer reports, Peter Randall, the director of Ravan Press in Johannesburg, asked J.M. Coetzee to consider supplying ‘a few more personal details’ for the jacket of his first novel. ‘We are often criticised,’ Randall wrote, ‘for not telling readers about our authors. While I do not want to overdo this, some more information about your school education, for example, or your family background, may be useful.’ Coetzee, who was 33 and a lecturer in the University of Cape Town’s English department, replied:

The information you suggest suggests that I settle for a particular identity I should feel most uneasy in. A few words about my schooling, for example, make me a player in the English-South African game of social typing and can even be read as a compliment to those monsters of sadism who ruled over my life for 11 years. As for my family background, I am one of the ten thousand Coetzees, and what is there to be said about them except that Jacobus Coetzee [a historical frontiersman reimagined in Dusklands] begat them all?

(LRB 21 March 2013)