Boyhood: Scenes From Provincial Life ~ J.M. Coetzee

boyhoodI’m anticipating the release of a new J.M. Coetzee book in September. It appears to be a continuation of his memoirs (Boyhood and Youth). I have never read these two, so thought this the ideal time to catch up on the,

In Boyhood, JMC writes about growing up in a “Housing Estate” outside of Cape Town. On streets with tree-names – but no trees. Being more comfortable in his own skin that way, he makes  choices that give him an ‘outsider’ status. He openly declares he’s Roman Catholic (he is not). He secretly admires the Russians and dislikes the Americans. He made both choices merely because the letter “R” (and especially the capitol letter “R”), is his favorite. He learns to be circumspect. Hide ones true self away – like a spider.

Part of being prudent is always to tell less rather than more.

A few times JMC mentions the concept of love in the same vein. His mother has learned not to tell him she loves him. It makes him uncomfortable.

He sees no sense in love. When men and women kiss in films, and violins play low and lush in the background, he squirms in his seat. He vows he will never be like that: soft, soppy.

He knows his mother loves him, but the fact feels like a trap. The emotion mixes with shame for his ingratitude for his mother’s love

Love: this is what love really is, this cage in which he rushes back and forth, back and forth, like a poor bewildered baboon.

When his family moves, it necessitates a change in schools. There he has an epiphany of sorts, when he understands that some of his grades will be based on ‘class’, not merit.

Whoever he truly is, whoever the true “I” is  that ought to be rising out of the ashes of his childhood, is not being allowed to be born, is being kept puny and stunted.

An emerging writer. He must tell the stories….



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