Life & Times of Michael K - 3M's Review

The Life & Times of Michael K won the Booker Prize in 1983. Written by Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee, it is set in South Africa during a civil war. Michael is a gardener in his earlier thirties who has a harelip. He was institutionalized by his mother when he was a child, but at the beginning of the book when she is old and very ill, she calls for him. She would like him to take her to the village where she grew up. Getting the proper paperwork for the train is practically impossible because of the war, so finally they give up on it and try to go there on their own.

Many things happen to Michael on the trip. He is captured and made to work for awhile, and then released. He finds what he thinks is the farm where his mother was raised and makes himself a home (if you can call it that) there. Struggling to survive and evade the government, in the midst of it all he still wants to be a gardener and plants a small pumpkin patch, which he guards and tends with fervor.

The book is told in three parts. Parts I and III describe the storyline from Michael’s perspective. Part II is told in first person by a doctor who tries to understand Michael when he is brought under his care. This was a thought-provoking book and I enjoyed it, though I could have done without some scenes at the end. I’ll definitely read more by Coetzee.

A quote:

I could live here forever, he thought, or till I die. Nothing would happen, every day would be the same as the day before, there would be nothing to say.

1983, 184 pp.
Rating: 4