Slow Man – Book Review

Why does love, even such love as he claims to practise, need the spectacle of beauty to bring it to life? -From Slow Man, page 149-

This was my first Coetzee novel, and it will not be my last. In Slow Man, Coetzee tells the story of Paul Rayment, an older man who loses his leg in a freak bicycle accident and must decide the path of his life following this devastating event. Paul is a man who has lived a relatively solitary life and regrets his lack of children. He gave up his career as a photographer when colour replaced black and white and digital imagery replaced light-sensitive emulsions because ‘…to the rising generation the enchantment lay in the techne of images without substance, images that could flash throught he ether without resideing anywhere, that could be sucked into a machine and emerge from it doctored, untrue.‘ (From Slow Man, page 65).

As the reader meets the other characters (Marijana, Marianna, Drago, and the bold Elizabeth Costello) she is treated to a literary puzzle about love, loss and mortality. Coetzee engages the reader with sharp dialogue and an edgy wit. He plays with the meaning of words and names – which had me re-reading passages and marking pages for later contemplation.

Slow Man is a demanding novel despite it’s brevity.  At times it is difficult to know which character and whose story can be trusted. Perhaps this idea is best captured as Paul ruminates about his career as a photographer:

He tends to trust pictures more than he trusts words. Not because pictures cannot lie but because, once they leave the darkroom, they are fixed, immutable. Whereas stories – the story of the needle in the bloodstream, for instance, or the story of how he and Wayne Blight came to meet on Magill Road – seem to change shape all the time. -From Slow Man, page 64-

I cannot say more about this novel without giving away important plot points – and so, I will simply recommend that readers read Coetzee’s book for themselves.

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    • Anonymous on June 5, 2007 at 12:51

    Usually when Coetzee comes up, you hear about ‘Disgrace’ which has been on my TBR list since the beginning of time. It’s good to know he’s not a one trick pony.

    • Anonymous on June 9, 2007 at 00:01

    I have yet to read a book by this author, but I did pick up a copy of this particular book at a sale one day. The blurb on the back caught my attention. It definitely sounds like a worthwhile read. Thanks for the review!

    • Anonymous on June 9, 2007 at 12:27

    kookie and Wendycat – glad you found the review helpful! I think you would both like this novel, although, as I said – it is a demanding read. I think writers will especially enjoy the twists in this novel.

    • Anonymous on July 28, 2007 at 23:33

    Wendy and Kookiejar, I thought Disgrace was a very good book and I hope both of you will consider reading it. Sorry, I don’t have an online review of it to share with you.

    • Anonymous on July 29, 2007 at 01:01

    Disgrace is on my TBR shelf 🙂 I’ve heard others have liked this as well. I’m planning on using it for my South Africa read…

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