Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee

Waiting for the BarbariansSomething about this book was mesmerizing, yet I can’t declare it to be one of the best works I’ve encountered.  I just wanted to take my time with it and allow each word to be absorbed and it took time and concentration to get through.  In the end, I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t thrilled either.

A complacent magistrate living in a fictional South African colony has his world turned upside down when the Civil Guard pays a visit and are none too pleased with how he’s running things. Still not ready to open his eyes, a sadistic warrant officer finally gets his attention when he sets in motion a horrific campaign of terror.

The unnamed Magistrate is a middle-aged man whose nonchalance has allowed for a somewhat peaceful existence.  Blind to the suffering so near to him, he carries on with his comforts with little thought to those around him.  His sexual needs are met by a local prostitute and a recently kidnapped ‘barbarian’ that he truly believes he is helping.

The girl, again another unnamed character is a surviving ‘barbarian’ kidnapped and tortured in front of her father who is then killed.  She is taken in by the Magistrate and sleeps with him and then works in the kitchen by day.  She claims to be blind and says little more about her abuse, yet when the time comes to return to her roots, her decision is swift.

Warrant Officer Mandel is a stereotypical sadist who creates unthinkable tortures and seems to be completely unaffected by his acts.  He shows no emotion and seems to fit the mold for a man in such a position.

This would be a difficult meeting to arrange since rumors abound of Mr. Coetzee’s reclusiveness.  Since this portion of my review is always presented as an assumed meeting with each author, living or not, I’ll once again feign agreement by the author.  Perhaps I’d discover if there is truth to his methods or rigor and strict discipline with regards to his writing.  What I’d love to hear about would be his experience in Austin and the factors leading to his emigration to Australia.

My rating for Waiting for the Barbarians is a 7 out of 10.

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Next up, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three MusketeersThe Three Musketeers


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