J.M. Coetzee has written a new memoir. Like the previouse two, this one masquerades as fiction. The premise: a young biographer has come to Cape Town to dig into the life of late writer John Coetzee. It's a sentimental, self-indulgent ploy, but Coetzee's aloofness always makes idulgence seem weirdly intellectual.
Called 'Summertime,' the book will be out this fall and The New York Review of Books has published an excerpt. Coetzee writes into himself from outside, as if an observer who must maintain coolness to make headway.
In the excerpt, 'Undated Fragments,' Coetzee tries to understand his uncommunicative father, helping his father at work, and shadowing him at home. Yet understanding is elusive no matter how much time the two men spend together. In the end, Coetzee constructs an imaginary story in which his father's existence is one of insatiable longing. But, of course, that longing may well be in Coetzee's head.
If this excerpt weren't part of something longer, I'd say it's among the best short fiction I've encountered this year. Read it here.