Chapter

‘JOEY RULES’: Telling the Truth in <i>Life & Times of Michael K</i>

Patrick Hayes

in J.M. Coetzee and the Novel

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199587957
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723292 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587957.003.0004

Series: Oxford English Monographs

‘JOEY RULES’: Telling the Truth in Life & Times of Michael K

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One of the questions that serious readers must pose of literary fiction—especially fiction as politically charged as Coetzee's—is whether it is telling the truth. This chapter explores what it means for literature to speak truth to power, focusing in particular on the presentation of heroism in Life & Times of Michael K, and upon the political debate that has aggregated around that text. I will argue that Coetzee draws upon an understanding of literary truth inspired by Kafka and Blanchot as part of his broader attempt to steer between two different ways of understanding how literature addresses politics: that is to say, between a high‐culturalist view, which he describes as ‘rivalry’, and a view that collapses culture into politics, which he calls ‘supplementarity’.

Keywords: literary truth; high cultural; rivalry; supplementarity; heroism; Kafka; Blanchot

Chapter.  12804 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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