J. M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 and is the author of twenty-one books, which have been translated into many languages. He was the first author to twice win the Booker Prize. A native of South Africa, he now lives in Adelaide, Australia.
Excerpt from book:
The man at the gate points them towards a low, sprawling building in the middle distance. ‘If you hurry,’ he says, ‘you can check in before they close their doors for the day.’
They hurry. Centro de Reubicación Novilla, says the sign. Reubicación: what does that mean? Not a word he has learned.
The office is large and empty. Hot too – even hotter than outside. ?tioned by panes of frosted glass. Against the wall is an array of filing drawers in varnished wood.
Suspended over one of the partitions is a sign: Recién Llegados, the words stencilled in black on a rectangle of cardboard. The clerk behind the counter, a young woman, greets him with a smile.
‘Good day,’ he says. ‘We are new arrivals.’ He articulates the words slowly, in the Spanish he has worked hard to master. ‘I am looking for employment, also for a place to live.’ He grips the boy under the armpits and lifts him so that she can see him properly. ‘I have a child with me.’
The girl reaches out to take the boy’s hand. ‘Hello, young man!’ she says. ‘He is your grandson?’
‘Not my grandson, not my son, but I am responsible for him.’
‘A place to live.’ She glances at her papers. ‘We have a room free here at the Centre that you can use while you look for something better. It won’t be luxurious, but perhaps you won’t mind that. As for employment, let us explore that in the morning – you look tired, I am sure you want to rest. Have you travelled far?’
‘We have been on the road all week. We have come from Belstar, from the camp. Are you familiar with Belstar?’
‘Yes, I know Belstar well. I came through Belstar myself. Is that where you learned your Spanish?’
‘We had lessons every day for six weeks.’
‘Six weeks? You are lucky. I was in Belstar for three months. I almost perished of boredom. The only thing that kept me going was the Spanish lessons. Did you by any chance have señora Piñera as a teacher?’
‘No, our teacher was a man.’ He hesitates. ‘May I raise a different matter? My boy’ – he glances at the child – ‘is not well. Partly it is because he is upset, confused and upset, and hasn’t been eating prop?erly. He found the food in the camp strange, didn’t like it. Is there anywhere we can get a proper meal?’
‘How old is he?’
‘Five. That is the age he was given.’
‘And you say he is not your grandson.’
‘Not my grandson, not my son. We are not related. Here’ – he takes
“At once lucid and elusive….The prose is clear and flat in the special way that Coetzee has perfected.”—David Sexton, London Evening Standard (UK)
“Pure, simple prose….Vividly real.”—Sunday Express (UK)
“Beautifully put together,”—The Spectator (UK)
“The inspiring gospel according to J. M. Coetzee.”—The Herald (UK)