NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009


by J.M. Coetzee

"I should never have allowed the gates of the town to be opened to people who assert that there are higher considerations than those of decency." Waiting For The Barbarians, p. 79.

"Set in an isolated outpost on the edge of a great Empire, Waiting for the Barbarians is a startling allegory of the war between the oppressor and the oppressed. The Magistrate, the novel's fascinating narrator, has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of the frontier settlement, dabbling in antiquarianism, and ignoring constant reports of a threat from the "barbarians" who inhabit the uncharted deserts beyond the village. But when military personnel arrive with captured barbarians, he becomes witness to a cruel and unjust defense of the Empire." (From the front flap of the Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century edition)

Wow. I'm not even sure what to say about this one. It is something of a coincidence that I read this during the current torture controversies, especially concerning the ethical message of who we, the U.S., are as a country. That was on my mind the entire time I was reading and made many of the scenes and discoveries in the text that much more penetrating.

I can't say that I fully understood the more subtle aspects of Waiting for the Barbarians, but it was a stealthily provoking story even if one only skims the surface. I will be contemplating a later visit to the murkier depths.


Ladytink_534 said...

I haven't heard of Penguin's Great Books of the 20th century (though I love their Puffin Modern Classics) but I'm definitely going to look some of these up. Never heard of this one before.

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ I know most of us are list junkies, and the Great Books of the 20th Century looks like good one. I'll probably make a run at it. It's nice and short! :-)


Rebecca Reid said...

I read one Coetzee before and it likewise was hard to understand the "murky depths," although it did capture my attention. This book sounds very interesting.

Andi said...

I just realized, as I was going through making a library wishlist the other day, that I've never read Coetzee and have no idea where to start! This sounds like a good one since I'm very interested in the torture debate going on right now and what message we're sending the world. Thanks for a great review, Lezlie!

JoAnn said...

I had pretty much the same experience with the one Coetzee I read, too.

Lezlie said...

Rebecca ~ He does know how to keep you interested. And you just know there is more going on that what you're seeing!

Andi ~ You're welcome! I thought this was a good introduction to Coetzee. It will not be the last of his I read, that's for sure.

JoAnn ~ You're all making me feel a lot better about not grasping it all right away. He's deceptively easy to read!