In the beginning: „The blow catches him from the right, sharp and surprising and painful, like a bolt of electricity, lifting him up off the bicycle. Relax! he tells himself as he flies through the air (flies through the air with the greatest of ease!), and indeed he can feel his limbs go obediently slack. Like a cat he tells himself: roll, then spring to your feet, ready for what comes next. The unusual word limber or limbre is on the horinzon, too.“
This book was a christmas present from a friend. She bought it at the international literature festival in Berlin last year. On the cover it says, that the author is a nobel prize winner for literature and this made me kind of curious what the book would be like. J.M. Coetzee lives in Adelaide, Australia, which is also where the novell takes place.
The first thing I noticed when starting to read was the quite big amount of vocabulary the author uses. It is not necessarily complicated, but definitely on a high level. This impressed me, since it was still a lot easier to read than for example Ulysses. And one is able to enjoy the beautiful language while at the same time understanding the contents without difficulty.
To that matter I have to admit, that at first the story did seem a little boring. In the beginning the protagonist is caught up in an accident and while showing how he deals with losing his leg through the before mentioned accident his life is slowly revealed through memories and conversations with the two people he is interacting with mostly in the book. Those two people are his female care-taker which he feels he has fallen in love with and a mysterious, yet somehow famous celebrated Australian novelist. The latter one just somehow moves in with him, although they don’t seem to know each other.
The plot gets more fascinating after the first quarter of the book. It gains suspense by introducing unexpected turnovers in the behaviour of the characters and by developing the relationships between them.
Most of the time I had the feeling that the Australian novelist is a metaphor for his conscience. She tells him what and what not to do. Sometimes directly and sometimes through hints or questions.
The book is about the protagonists fears and worries:
„Why do you call me a tortoise?“
„Because you sniff the air for ages before you stick your head out.“
It demonstrates how one sometimes lies to oneself to make life easier. Or because one is not ready yet to deal with the challenges approaching. The human wish for harmony and the fear of not appealing are just two of the aspects that seem to be central in this story.
The end was quite sudden and unexpected for me. I would have wished for more to come. Now the story leaves me wondering and a little unsatisfied.
Slow Man is a book that is absolutely worth reading. While it is not the best book I have read in a long time, it is quite good. As one of the commentators on the cover of the book states: „Coetzee cares about every word.“ I have got the same feeling and while this is a good thing, it can sometimes be a little exhausting. I will certainly read another book by this author.