Waiting for the Barbarians

Coetzee, J. M.

(Book - 2010)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Waiting for the Barbarians
For decades the Magistrate has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement and ignoring the impending war with the barbarians. When interrogation experts arrive, however, he witnesses the Empire's cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war. Jolted into sympathy for their victims, he commits a quixotic act of rebellion that brands him an enemy of the state. J. M. Coetzee's prize-winning novel is a startling allegory of the war between opressor and opressed. The Magistrate is not simply a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times; his situation is that of all men living in unbearable complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency.

Series that include this title

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2010, c1980
ISBN: 9780143116929
Branch Call Number: FICTION COETZEE 2010
Characteristics: 180 p. ;,20 cm


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Aug 10, 2013
  • stewstealth rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Outstanding book in both the prose and subject matter. Highly recommend and a fairly quick read.

Mar 17, 2012
  • macierules rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Simple elegant prose telling a grim fairy tale of an evil empire. The magistrate and Stoll characters will not be forgotten.

This is the 67th of a series of titles selected by writer Yann Martel to provide to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to encourage an appreciation of the arts and literature in particular in the PM, and to also help Harper with his stillness and thoughtfulness. Martel has regularly sent books from a wide range of literary traditions to Harper. Martel has devoted a Web site to the reading list and his kind, considered and often poignant covering letters with each volume. (All of his letters can be read at http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/ ... and obviously they can now be read in printed form!) Martel's thoughtful persistence in this quest, started in April 2007, is both heartwrenching and highly commendable. He has never received a direct acknowledgement from Harper, and only some fairly form-letter responses from Harper's staff. He has also received a response from Industry Minister Tony Clement, but it wasn't directly related to any of Martel's book selections.

J.M. Coetzee often tackles difficult subject matter, and expresses it in thorny and not always pleasant ways. As Martel tellingly remarks about this book, "Hard to read it and not feel indignation at the wickedness of agents of the state who in the name of the law take the law in their own hands."


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