Slowman is indeed a slow affair

Slowman – by J M Coetzee

What happens when you see yourself standing at some point where you are not sure where to move and no path is visible to you, let go any goal or destination. You stand there muttering, cursing, lamenting and at times assuring and reasoning yourself. And then suddenly out of nowhere as if the long cast mist has cleared you see some path, some road to set foot to. And suddenly without thinking, where the road leads, one is thrust on it by the weight of the past’s over burdened feelings. And imagine your conscience waking up after some time when you have starting moving on that path. And since your conscience is at loggerheads with your desires the only motion left of you is skidding and slipping. And amidst this skidding and slipping someone just one day stands up and calls you Slowman.
Such is the story of Slowman, which J M Coetzee showcases here.

The novel begins with Paul Rayment waking up form an accident and realizing that he has lost a leg. Lying on his bed he thinks about his life questioning everything and anything. The novels moves as if some existential saga is unfolding but then suddenly with the arrival of a new nurse everything changes and a trite longing story of an amputated old man starts which goes on for some time and when the proceedings become too boring the novel is revived by the arrival of Elizabeth Costello. But the revival is short-lived and the story then meekly and despairingly keeps on continuing b/w Paul, Elizabeth, the Nurse and her family.

One reason for the story becoming despairingly banal is that a lot of questions are being asked, which in the beginning look great and the reader also ponders with them but then it becomes apparent that the only thing author is doing here is just asking them without exploring any of them.
Looking from another angle the story is a crude representation of old age noting that Paul and Elizabeth are in 60’s and 70’s and the storyteller Coetzee himself is in 60’s. So the author presents a story where one keeps questioning everything as the life is in quandary and also not going too deep into the questions as only reality thr is that life is standing on its last legs.

In all not a very entertaining read though it begins very nice but gets lost in the oblivion of questions and triteness.

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7 comments

  1. Rakesh
    I loved this new look of your blog. Nice review!
    I saw this title in the airport bookstore and remembered you. I did scan the book, the note overleaf. I could not get the vigor & power of expression by this great Nobel Laureate in this title…Both “Disgrace” and “Boyhood” stay firm with me as my favourites.Are not we expected to think along with the writer and draw conclusions of the situation he displays over the shelf….and Coetzee is such a brilliant novelist who gives so much space for us to explore..unlike Roald Dahl who packs one off..!he is a killer (Roald Dahl)
    But Coetzee, I feel, is sharp and crystal clear in his study of the elements….Boyhood is absolutely a delight!

    Jyo

  2. @Jyo : It looked as if Coetzee was in some playful experimental mood. In the first half or so he just kept on changing the tone of the story. And after the induction of Elizabeth the novel actually turns into some comedy show and whatsoever seriousness of the story was thr till now was lost completely and the novel never quite revived after that…
    anyway, i haven’t read “Disgrace” so will be reading it soon….

  3. @Chandni : Boss!…well, looks its same everywhere..

    @Ganga : Ah, off the topic may be but not off the occasion..
    A very happy Diwali to u too…

    @all(if any) : Happy Diwali!!

  4. haven’t read this book by Coetzee. I have read quite a few of his books, my favourite of his books is Youth. An autobiographical work about a young man trying to find a way in the world and become a writer and battling with his isolation and pain…it is quite bleak but also exhilarating and gripping in its own way.

    I read somewhere that Coetzee said that he was bored with the traditional novelistic forms with its insistence on “characters”, “plots” and “stories” and was trying to experiment. This is I think one of his experiments. I tried reading his earlier book Elizabeth Costello too but it proved a little too daunting for me. It is also very experimental.

  5. Well, then it looks that he was experimenting on terms of “characters”. Rayment, Elizabeth and Coetzee himself were actually acting as one character looking and pulling something from different angles.
    Story here was almost nonexistent or rather actually not cared about.
    Anyway, avoid it if u can, it looks as if the experiment didn’t succeed..

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