Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II
The narrator of Youth, a student in the South Africa of the 1950s, has long been plotting an escape from his native country: from the stifling love of his mother, a father whose failures haunt him, and what he is sure is impending revolution. Studying mathematics, reading poetry, and saving money, he tries to ensure that when he arrives in the real world, wherever that may be, he will be prepared to experience life to its full intensity and transform it into art. Arriving at last in London, however, he finds neither poetry nor romance. Instead he succumbs to the monotony of life as a computer programmer, from which random, loveless affairs offer no relief. Devoid of inspiration, he stops writing. An awkward colonial, a constitutional outsider, he begins a dark pilgrimage in which he is continually tested and continually found wanting. Set against the background of the 1960s — Sharpeville, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam — Youth is a remarkable portrait of a consciousness, isolated and adrift, turning in on itself. J. M. Coetzee explores a young man’s struggle to find his way in the world with tenderness and a fierce clarity.
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