so what is it, he thought, that binds me to this spot of earth as if to a home i cannot leave? we must all leave home, after all, we must all leave our mothers. or am i such a child, such a child from such a line of children, that none of us can leave, but have to come back to die here with our heads upon our mothers’ laps, i upon hers, she upon her mother’s, and so back and back, generation upon generation?
i have just finished the booker prize winner from 1983, the year of my birth! it feels nice to get this little project underway, and i am glad to have the first one under my belt.
jm coetzee’s life & times of michael k was bleak at times, and it was sad, but it was an interesting read and not one i would have picked up if not for this challenge. it tells the story of micheal k, a man who seems destined to be alone from the time of his birth.
born with a hare lip to a single mother, michael k grows up in an institution for orphaned and abandoned boys, seeing his mother only on occasion throughout the years. he is a loner, he is not very smart, and he is shunned because of his physical appearance. because of this, he struggles to fit in and find his place within south africa’s society.
when michael k is an adult, his mother falls sick and asks him to take her back to her childhood home in the country. unable to abandon her the way she did him, he sets her up in a wheelbarrow and attempts to walk her back to the country through a south africa that is now fighting a war within itself. his mother dies along the way, and without her as his anchor, he does not know where to go or what to do.
from there michael k becomes a drifter. he lives off of the land. he gets picked up and sent to a labour camp. he escapes and retreats to the land again. he is discovered and charged with storing food and arms for rebel soldiers. and he eventually ends up in an infirmary where a kind doctor sees him for what he is: a loner with a simple mind who does not inhabit the same world as those around him. he understands michael k in a way that no one else – not even his own mother – ever has, and he provides the treatment and counseling he so desperately needs.
at 184 pages, michael k is a quick read, but it covers a multitude of feelings and emotions in its few pages. as a reader i felt endless empathy for michael k, because it was obvious to me what kind of treatment and attention he needed but was not receiving. but in a country divided by civil war, where every able man is either a patriot or a rebel, no one could understand that michael k was just different. it was rather sad, especially when michael k tells the doctor that he is simply not used to anyone caring about whether or not he ate his dinner. that was a moment that really stayed with me.
as i mentioned earlier, this is a bit of a bleak book, but i am really glad that i read it. it was a great reminder that many of these booker prize winners are going to be very different from the books i normally read, and that can be a really good thing.
my goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 // average rating is 3.83 [i would have gone for a 3.5 if it were an option]
crossing off the popsugar reading list: a book that came out the year you were born.
next up: over the weekend i picked up a copy of antoine de sainty-exupery’s the little prince, which i have never read, so i’m excited to tackle that next. bonus: it cost me $1!
what are you reading these days? anything interesting?