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The Childhood of Jesus

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Published by Harvill Secker, part of Vintage Publishing

Format: Hardback


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EAN: 9781846557262
Published: 7 Mar 2013


About the book


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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What the critics say

Allegorical, faintly biblical
- Evening Standard

As ever, JM Coetzee manages to dodge every category with mesmeric cunning... This limpid, gnomic and surprisingly witty tale will take root in your imagination’
- Independent

There are lots of traditions and tales mixed in – along with mathematics and a wonderfully poetic use of language
- Financial Times

Richly enigmatic, with regular flashes of Coetzee's piercing intelligence
- Guardian

Engaging and thoughtful
- Tablet

Written with all of Coetzee’s penetrating rigour, it will be an early contender for an unprecedented third Booker prize
- Observer

Double Booker Prize-winner Coetzee's fable has a dream-like, Kafkaesque quality. Are we in some kind of heaven, purgatory or simply another staging post of existence? Clear answers are elusive, but this is a riveting, thought-provoking read and surely Coetzee's best novel since Disgrace more than a decade ago
- Daily Mail

A fine, haunting novel that gets under your skin and into your marrow
- Daily Express

The Childhood of Jesus represents a return to the allegorical mode that made him famous... The Childhood of Jesus does ample justice to his giant reputation: it’s richly enigmatic, with regular flashes of Coetzee’s piercing intelligence
- Guardian

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

This book will continue to act, silently and unexpectedly, on the reader’s imagination. It unpicks the Christian myth and braids it together with folk tales, the early novel, Pythagorean mysticism, Platonic philosophy, Buddhist epigrams, mathematics – powerful and poetic languages that underwrite our world
- Financial Times

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

It's a relief after reading a lot of contemporary fiction to come across the sober prose of Coetzee. He doesn't shout at you... He knows what he's doing... The whole novel is a kind of escape act, an elaborate rope trick... magical
- Observer

This is a book to make you think. This is a book to forcefully turn you away from mindless entertainment and set you on a journey inwards, where you ask yourself the important questions in life. It's philosophy as fiction... Part of his achievement is down to how fit for purpose his prose is. It is remarkably sparse and yet feels dense, weighted with layers and layers of meaning
- Irish Independent

[A] moving but mysterious story of a lost childhood... Is it possible to be deeply affected by a book without really knowing what it's about? Before reading J.M. Coetzee's new novel I might have said no - but now I'm not so sure... [As] disquieting as it is moving... [All] I can say is that ever since I finished it, it's been going round and round inside my head like nothing else I've read in ages
- Sunday Telegraph

What JM Coetzee writes matters... [A narrative mode] akin to that of Kafka... At once lucid and elusive
- Scotland on Sunday

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

Tormented states of mind, ambivalence and guilt stalk his work, as do the dual influences of Kafka and Beckett
- Irish Times

A retelling of the gospels? A fable about Utopian, Chaves-style socialism? Coeztee moves in mysterious, but mesmerising, ways
- i

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

An intellectual adventure
- Socialist Review

A perversely comic, intellectually profound and obscurely allegorical novel
- Edinburgh Journal

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

About the Author

J. M. Coetzee’s work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace, Summertime and The Childhood of Jesus. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

J M Coetzee

More about J M Coetzee

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