After crossing oceans, a man and a boy arrive in a new land. Here they are each assigned a name and an age, and held in a camp in the desert while they learn Spanish, the language of their new country. As Simón and David they make their way to the relocation centre in the city of Novilla, where officialdom treats them politely but not necessarily helpfully.
Simón finds a job in a grain wharf. The work is unfamiliar and backbreaking, but he soon warms to his stevedore comrades, who during breaks conduct philosophical dialogues on the dignity of labour, and generally take him to their hearts.
Now he must set about his task of locating the boy’s mother. Though like everyone else who arrives in this new country he seems to be washed clean of all traces of memory, he is convinced he will know her when he sees her. And indeed, while walking with the boy in the countryside Simón catches sight of a woman he is certain is the mother, and persuades her to assume the role.
David's new mother comes to realise that he is an exceptional child, a bright, dreamy boy with highly unusual ideas about the world. But the school authorities detect a rebellious streak in him and insist he be sent to a special school far away. His mother refuses to yield him up, and it is Simón who must drive the car as the trio flees across the mountains.
THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS is a profound, beautiful and continually surprising novel from a very great writer.
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A fine, haunting novel that gets under your skin and into your marrow - Daily Express
He’s not quite the Messiah but J.M. Coeztee is a devilishly clever novelist… J.M. Coetzee fashions prose of a lapidary clarity and grace… Coetzee has returned to the (paradoxically) clear and yet opaque fable mode of master-works such as Waiting for the Barbarians. Given the title, one might expect a bleak retelling of gospel stories…but Coetzee never makes things so simple for disciples - Independent
As well as an intriguing literary and metaphysical puzzle, the book is also one of profound and painful humanity, preoccupied with some of the most essential questions about what it means to be a parent and what happens when noble principles are confronted with the grubby details of everyday life - Washington Post
Reading JM Coetzee is like swimming in a sea with a calm surface and a savage undertow. His sentences are lean; his subjects menacing: power, race, animal rights and confession - Intelligent Life
There are knotty concerns here on reading, on order and chaos, on political engagement, on almost anything you can think of. But, “you think too much,” Elena says to Simón. “This has nothing to do with thinking.”... What Coetzee has given us is a book not of answers but of questions... Coetzee’s prose is clean and efficient, driving the reader on through the mazy stasis of life in Novilla. There is plenty of what, to avoid a cliché, we might call Kafkaish stuff... These qualities, combined with the enjoyable and unaccustomed exercise of thinking about the book – wanting to think about it – all the way through, meant that in a strange sense, The Childhood of Jesus is the most fun I’ve had with a novel in ages - The Asylum
There aren’t many subjects bigger than the question of faith – and with The Childhood of Jesus, Coetzee appears to have found a subject worthy of his high-level craftsmanship - Sunday Business Post
A perversely comic, intellectually profound and obscurely allegorical novel - Edinburgh Journal
J.M. Coetzee's work includes Waiting For the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Summertime, Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.