Dan Sandman

13: Age of Iron by J. M. Coetzee

In Books, Crime, Fiction on 25/03/2016 at 12:00 pm

Age of Iron by J. M. CoetzeeJ. M. Coetzee’s novels do not offer the reader an escape from the problems of society. In beautifully crafted prose, his fiction forces us to confront contemporary issues head on. With virtuous narrative technique, his books shine a light on the inner workings of the human soul. Without coming across as preachy or over discursive, Coetzee teaches us to search within ourselves. What we find might upset us, but by questioning our conscience we come closer to an understanding of life.

The narrator of this epistolary novel is an old classics teacher who is well versed in Latin and Greek. Because she is writing using the letter form, she engages the reader directly at several points of the story. This narrative technique brings extra gravity to the novel, giving the writing a sense of urgency that could otherwise be missing. Critical readers will notice how this form is employed in order to highlight the physical act of writing. It is as though we the reader are privy to confidential material, speculating upon the literary evidence presented to us.

As in other works by Coetzee, old photographs are symbolic metaphors: frozen evidence of times gone by. When we peer at them, we do not necessarily see ourselves. What we observe is a faded image of ourselves, one that is not the face we see today in the mirror. Our childhood memories become tainted by the knowledge of our adult selves; magnified by the inevitable approach of death.

Like I said, this is not escapism.

 

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