Arnon Grunberg

The staging of a confession

Señor C

Finally “Diary of a bad year” has been published in the US. On Sunday the NY Times Book Review published an essay, which questioned Coetzee’s motives for immigrating to Australia and in this week’s New Yorker there is a lengthy review by James Wood.
There are quite a few interesting remarks in this review. Mr. Wood emphasizes the difference between the protagonist, Señor C and its author J.M. Coetzee. He points out that Señor C is seven years older than J.M. Coetzee; a detail that I had completely overlooked.
Mr. Wood claims that Señor C ‘sounds like a bull with a bullhorn, and is very different in tone from the more feline Coetzee, who would surely rather have his claws pulled than commit to print the phrase “It’s déjà vu all over again.”' Maybe. But even in Dostoyevsky’s oeuvre one can find sentences that are extremely mundane.
Mr. Wood writes: “We can hear the same note of personal anguish in Coetzee’s fiction, even as that fiction insists that it is offering not a confession but only the staging of a confession.” Can fiction by nature offer anything else than the staging of a confession? Nevertheless Mr. Wood asks an important question.
How much consistency do we need in our ideas? It’s painful to fall out of love with a human being, but to fall out love with your own ideas and your sense of morality might be even more painful.
Sometimes we stick to our ideas even after the love has disappeared for the same reasons as people stick to their marriages: out of convenience and a sense of responsibility.