Published in , Age of Iron is J.M. Coetzee's sixth novel. While less well-known than some of his other works such as Life & Times of Michael K and. In this text, I would like to examine the modalities of this effort to survive by reading two of Coetzee's novels, The Life and Times of Michael K and The Age of Iron. ''Age of Iron'' takes the form of a long letter from Mrs. Curren, a former classics professor now dying of cancer, to her daughter, who has moved.


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The suggestion here seems to be that South African literature too has been deformed by age of iron State's structures of power. As Coetzee's description of it as "a less than fully human literature, unnaturally preoccupied with power and the torsions of power" Coetzee, "Jerusalem" age of iron suggests, it merely reproduces the operation of the State's structures of power.

Age of Iron - Wikipedia

And in so doing, it implicates itself in those structures and thereby compromises its ability to effectively condemn them. Mrs Curren's realisation that "Power is power, after all.


It invades" thus also pertains to South African literature, as does her perception about her relation to her ideological context: In this regard Mrs Curren's application of the novel's imagery of deformity to the words of her diary is significant: And her earlier reference to her words as "The issue of a shrunken heart"also alludes age of iron the corrupt and stunted nature of language and literature in South Africa.

From within age of iron prisonhouse of this deformed language, effective literary protest seems impossible.

Age of Iron by J.M. Coetzee

In this respect it is significant that Mrs Curren should be described as "the woman with serpents of flame in her hair"a highly ambiguous description which could serve equally well to associate her with the Gorgon Medusa who, like the Furies, was represented with snakes for hair Graves This ambivalence indicates age of iron, rather than being a Fury, Mrs Curren is actually a Gorgon and, by analogical extension, rather than serving the adversarial role that it intends to, South African literature actually reinforces the State's deforming drive.

Irrespective of their different impulses and intentions, the effect of Mrs Curren's "spectacle" and the State's "message" is ultimately the same and that is to turn "people to stone" As Mrs Curren presciently realises, her envisaged age of iron of protest is a "public show" over which age of iron has no control and which is bound to escape her intention: These public shows, these manifestations [ An old woman sets herself on fire, for instance.


Because she has been driven mad? Because she is in despair?

Because she has cancer? I thought of painting a letter on the car to explain.


What is the right letter for my case? Being trapped in its ways of seeing and categorising, this literature inadvertently complies with the State's enterprise and its drive age of iron ensure the continuance of existing power relations by reproducing them.

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And indeed, in the course of the novel, Mrs Curren comes age of iron question the legitimacy of her "voice": I have no voice" However, as its own status as a linguistic age of iron suggests, Age of Iron does not ultimately posit silence as the only avenue open to the writer.

Moreover, after echoing Hamlet with the words, "The rest should be silence" my italics,Mrs Curren goes on to say: I had filled several pages when the time ended.

Instead of praise, however, the teacher was genuinely pissed and accused me of cheating.