Elizabeth Costello

Elizabeth Costello

Eight Lessons

Book - 2003
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Elizabeth Costello is an Australian writer of international renown; she is f-ted, studied, honoured. Famous principally for an early novel that established her reputation and from which, it seems, she will never escape, she has reached the stage, late in life, where her remaining function is to be venerated and applauded. One of a new breed of intellectual nomads, her life has become a series of engagements in sterile conference rooms throughout the world - a private consciousness obliged to reveal itself to a curious public: the presentation of a major award at an American college where she is required to deliver a lecture; a sojourn as the writer in residence on a cruise liner during which she encounters a fellow guest lecturer, an African poet also employed to divert the passengers; a visit to her sister, a missionary in Africa, who is receiving an honorary degree, an occasion which both recognise as the final opportunity for effecting some form of reconciliation; and a disquieting appearance at a writers' conference in Amsterdam where she finds the subject of her talk unexpectedly amongst the audience. She has made her life's work the study of other people yet now it is she who is the object of scrutiny. But, for her, what matters is the continuing search for a means of articulating her vision and the verdict of future generations. Elizabeth Costello is a humane, moral, and uncompromising creation; J. M. Coetzee's latest work of fiction offers us a profound and delicate vision of literary celebrity, artistry and the private life of the mind.
Publisher: London, Eng. : Secker & Warburg, 2003.
ISBN: 9780436206160
Characteristics: 233 p. ;,22 cm.


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Apr 07, 2019

Rather difficult to get through this bland book. One gets the feeling that the author lacks the courage to commit to writing essays by dumping what their contents would be into a narrative, a very awkward narrative, in order to have an out if challenged on what he says in them. Not worth re-reading, and requires some effort to finish reading by the readers. A cowardly effort.

RogerDeBlanck Jul 27, 2018

Through the use of the title character, Elizabeth Costello, an esteemed professor and lecturer, Coetzee expands upon subjects and ideas he first introduced in his short volume of essays entitled The Lives of the Animals. He essentially builds a narrative around the earlier essays and allows Costello to serve as his mouthpiece. This technique allows the novel to amount to a philosophical treatise with incidents in Costello’s life acting as influence for the ideas she writes and speaks about as a scholar. Coetzee’s prose shines at times with tremendous insight and the plot includes moments of revelation, but the book lacks the impact of a sound piece of fiction. Readers looking for titles that exemplify why Coetzee was deservedly awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature should try some of his other unforgettable novels, such as Age of Iron or Disgrace.

Apr 30, 2014


Perhaps I struggle with Coetzee books. Maybe I don't like characters built entirely around existential truths that I don't find very truthy, existential, or interesting. Or, I might be so much at peace about eating meat that I’m unable to connect with the striking amount of vegetarianism promotion. Ultimately, I'm not exactly sure what happened here, but I tried

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