Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review of the Day: Life and Times of Michael K

Life and Times of Michael K is a Booker Prize winner by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee. Despite the credentials, I did not like this book and I do not see the point of it.

Near the end, the main character, Michael K, questions whether the moral of the story is that there is time for everything. But if that is the moral of this story, then it was not clear at all. Michael K has nothing but time, but he does not do anything. He seems incapable of doing anything. He cannot cope with living in any kind of society; nor does he succeed in living on his own in the wilderness.

Read literally, the book is horribly depressing, because Michael seems to be mentally ill or mentally deficient (because he cannot provide for himself and he has no will to survive), but no one is able to help him. Read symbolically, I just do not get it. If Michael is supposed to represent some greater meaning, as the doctor/narrator suggests in the second part of the book, what is that meaning?

The book does not answer that question and I am at a loss to understand how Michael's numbing, endless suffering has meaning.

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