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Coetzee wins Nobel Prize

Coetzee wins Nobel Prize

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The 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature was won by the South African novelist J. M. Coetzee. This is wonderful news. Coetzee, 63, is unquestionably among the greatest living writers in English.

The Nobel has often been misapplied. It evaded Tolstoy, Chekhov, Joyce, Kafka and Nabokov. It was won, on the other hand, by Bjorns tjerne Bjornson, José Echegaray, Rudolf Eucken and others now wholly forgotten. In many cases, the judges seem to have been influenced by political, rather than literary, factors. But in choosing Coetzee, the judges have got it right and ignored the fact that Coetzee has many things to say that do not sit comfortably with liberal political assumptions.

His books deal with difficult, painful matters -betrayal, the abuse of power, the nature of evil, our cruel treatment of animals- and ultimately they express deep scepticism over whether or not any of us are capable of true empathy with others. Coetzee presents these unwelcome truths with a rigour and purity that cannot be ignored.

Coetzee was born in Cape Town in 1940 and trained as a computer scientist, coming to London in the Sixties to work for IBM, a period recollected in a superb autobiographical novel. He then became a professor of literature in the United States, initially using his computing skills for verbal analysis of writers, before returning to Cape Town in the early Seventies, where he has continued to teach and publish literary criticism. His first fiction, Dusklands, was published in 1974, followed by In The Heart Of The Country and Waiting For Barbarians, which swiftly won him international recognition.

In your own words and based on the ideas in the text, answer the following questions. (?)

a) Why has the Nobel Prize been sometimes wrongly awarded?

According to the text, literary qualities have not always been the main reason for authors to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. Sometimes, the judges have been influenced by political factors.destacar parrafo

Ayuda: La repuesta la encontramos en el segundo párrafo, que además ofrece nombres de autores (Bjornson, Echegaray...), hoy olvidados, a los que se les concedió el premio Nobel por motivos no literarios.

Vocabulario: according to text: según el texto; main reason: motivo principal.

b) What did Coetzee do professionally before he wrote his firs novel?

Before writing his first novel Coetzee was very busy professionally. In the Sixties he worked for IBM in London and later became a professor of Literature in the United States and finally in Cape Town. destacar parrafo

Ayuda: Es en el último párrafo donde se nos informa de la vida laboral de este autor. Su primera novela, Dusklands, la publicó en 1974. Antes de esa fecha, trabajó para IBM en los años sesenta, y luego como profesor de literatura.

Vocabulario: busy: ocupado; Sixties: década de los sesenta.

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