Friday, July 30, 2010

Death and the mother - passage from boyhood: Coetzee

this passage from Boyhood - Coetzee which i am rereading ( one of the best books i've ever read) evokes a memory. almost to the last nuance.
this is truly great writing. that can find that chord that exists in everyone and touch just the right notes.
the words in red are superfluous - otherwise, great passage.

He is a liar and he is cold-hearted too: a liar to the world in general, cold-hearted towards his mother. It pains his mother, he can see, he is steadily growing away from her. Nevertheless he hardens his heart and will not relent. His only excuse is that he is merciless to himself too. He lies but he does not lie to himself.
'When are you going to die', he asks her one day, challenging her, surprised at his own daring.
'I am not going to die', she replies, She speaks gaily but there is something false in her gaiety.
'What if you get cancer?'
'You only get cancer if you are hit on the breast. I won't get cancer. I'll live forever. I won't die.'
He knows why she is saying this. She is saying this for him and his brother, so that they will not worry. It is a silly thing to say, but he is grateful to her for it.
He cannot imagine her dying. She is the firmest thing in her life. She is the rock on which he stands. Without her he would be nothing.


Pankaj said...

lovely and poignant

Bland Spice said...

the whole of book has some 50-75,000 words only, i think.

Tangled up in blue... said...

I havent read this book but I have read Disgrace and Summertime and I think he has this lovely, spare, bare-bones style of writing that is very effective and yes, poignant.