Waiting for the Barbarians (英语) 平装 – 1982年4月29日
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 9, 1940, John Michael Coetzee studied first at Cape Town and later at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in literature. In 1972 he returned to South Africa and joined the faculty of the University of Cape Town. His works of fiction include Dusklands, Waiting for the Barbarians, which won South Africa’s highest literary honor, the Central News Agency Literary Award, and the Life and Times of Michael K., for which Coetzee was awarded his first Booker Prize in 1983. He has also published a memoir, Boyhood: Scenes From a Provincial Life, and several essays collections. He has won many other literary prizes including the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. In 1999 he again won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for Disgrace, becoming the first author to win the award twice in its 31-year history. In 2003, Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
A frontier outpost of "the empire" - exact period and locale matter little here. An aging and, up to this point, loyal servant to the empire - the local Magistrate - begins to question the ethics of his superiors as they prepare for war against "the barbarians" - the primitive nomadic tribes native to the occupied territory. The Magistrate suffers his own crisis of conscious as he witnesses cruel and apparently unprovoked torture of enemy prisoners of war. Is it compassion - or guilt - that drives the Magistrate to take a barbarian girl, blinded and crippled at the hands of her imperial tormenters - into his rooms? And to eventually embark on an ill-advised and dangerous winter journey into the badlands of enemy territory to return the girl to his family? However you interpret his motives, there is no question of the consequence, as the Magistrate learns the fragility of human dignity, while never extinguishing the flame of human life. This is a brutally effective novel - be prepared for two-by-fours liberally smacked against your forehead - a vivid and unapologetic photo album of man's depravity, and ability to compartmentalize and rationalize deploring behavior.
Allegory runs rich here - is the Magistrate the Christ figure or Don Quixote? - to familiar themes probing war and definitions of "civilization." If it were not for the 1980 copy write date, one may think Coetzee a critic of America's Iraq Wars. But I don't think Coetzee's intent is grinding a political axe - his message runs loftier - more important - more profound - and ultimately more disturbing. This is a journey into the dark heart of man, and if it is the journey, and not the destination that counts, well, enjoy the ride. You won't forget it.