PDF | This paper examines the interrelationship between the body and politics in J. M. Coetzee's novel Age of Iron, a social and political tragedy in a. The Salvation of Mrs Curren in Coetzee's Age of Iron.' William 4 Gilbert Yeoh, ' Love and Indifference in J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron', Journal of Commonwealth. Coetzee - Age of Iron - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or view presentation slides online. J M Coetzee Diary of a Bad Year. Uploaded.

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Since the beginning of his career, J. M. Coetzee's writing has occupied an uneasy threshold between the literary ideals of European modernism, with its. Age of Iron [J. M. Coetzee] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In Cape Town, South Africa, an old woman is dying of cancer. A classics. Iron J.M Coetzee uses imagery of decay and downfall and its main In the novel Age of Iron, by J.M Coetzee, first published in , we follow.

Coetzee's bodies attempt to mourn their own loss, to tell the story of their own eclipse. And in so doing, they open out onto a wider history of loss, a history that is not their own and that indeed cannot be owned, a history that ungrounds them as individual subjects.

Coetzee underlines the significance of the suffering body in South Africa from an ethico-political lens. In an interview with David Atwell, he states, Let me put it baldly: in South Africa it is not possible to deny the authority of suffering and therefore of the body.

It is not possible, not for logical reasons, not for ethical reasons I would not assert the ethical superiority of pain over pleasure , but for political reasons, for reasons of power. And let me again be unambiguous: it is not that one grants the authority of the suffering body: the suffering body takes this authority: that is its power.

He invokes the power of his racially, politically, and legally marked body to protest the acts of injustice against the colonized. He submits himself to a severe flogging in public, vicariously experiencing the unspeakable suffering of the barbarian girl. Blows fall on my head and shoulders. Never mind: all I want is a few moments to finish what I am saying now that I have begun…Not with that! I shout. But from some blows this miraculous body cannot repair itself!

The magistrate subscribes to a similar vision of intersubjectivity as expressed by Tutu by subjecting his body to pain and torture to assert his shared humanity with barbarians.

His ailing and aged body makes its own humbling demands, undermining the attempt to translate his suffering into a potent form of protest.

Age of Iron

The magistrate has to submit himself to the primary needs of his body, overruling his desire to transform his suffering into a noble cause. Further, he acknowledges the limits of the human body in its vulnerability and inability to withstand pain and torture.

The physical degradation that the magistrate is subjected to engenders an impulse of self-preservation, reducing him to nothing but his visceral self.

While corporeality is sublimated as a means of attaining justice and making reparations in Waiting for the Barbarians, there is also a recognition of its limits as a site of suffering and ungovernable drives and desires. Importantly, however, it is the opposition to racial injustice embodied in the suffering bodies of the barbarian girl and the magistrate and their resilience that provide the hope of a just future in the novel. Disgrace similarly gestures at the possibilities of expiation through the motif of the racialized and sexualized body of the white female South African protagonist, Lucy.

Disgrace, which largely relies on a realist narrative, resorts to symbolism and allegory in its depiction of complex gendered, racialized, and sexualized interactions between white South Africans who are gradually losing power in a post- apartheid setting and blacks, who are demanding retributive justice for the violence that was inflicted upon them during apartheid.

The white female body of Lucy in Disgrace becomes a central motif for expiation and restitution of interracial peace, albeit, problematically. Her sexualized, white female body becomes the site of struggle for power and possession, as well as retribution. In post-apartheid South Africa, this symbolic value attributed to white women and their bodies as sites that perpetuate racial purity and privilege is challenged and subverted.

A history of wrong. Think of it that way, if it helps. It may have seemed personal, but it wasn't. However, she rejects the public, truth-seeking model of the TRC, favoring instead a private, individualized solution.

Lucy refuses to be assimilated to the position of the victim or provide 11 Postcolonial Text Vol 11, No 4 meaning to her rape, asserting her right to deal with her predicament as she sees fit.

Perhaps that is how they look at it; perhaps that is how I should look at it too. They see me as owing something. They see themselves as debt collectors, tax collectors. Why should I be allowed to live here without paying? In so far as her silence and inaction can be construed as a selfless act of expiation, Lucy is seeking redemption for the past crimes of apartheid. Such a reading is problematic in that her selfhood is effaced and her gendered, sexualized body becomes the scapegoat for the wrongs perpetrated by her race.

The resignation with which she bore her violation without seeking for justice or retribution may suggest that she passively accepts this role that has been thrust upon her. While she may view her rape as a form of restoration, Lucy also regards it as a form of exchange—a price a female white settler has to pay for being able to live in rural South Africa. For, as a lesbian dependent on a gendered economy of farming in rural South Africa, she remains in a vulnerable position.

While not completely effacing the violence that is committed against her, the narrative indicates the potentialities of expiation through the body of Lucy. Lurie attempts to understand her motives by invoking a discourse of private guilt and reparation. By nurturing the child of a black man in her own body, Lucy is more than attempting to expiate for the crimes of the past—she is striving to create conditions of possibility to safeguard her own future in South Africa.

Lurie not only fails to understand the politics of her choice, but also sees it as a self-effacement on her part. Further, Lucy attempts to step outside the discursive meanings attributed to her body in deciding to keep her child, whom she could have aborted.

She strips the racial signification that her rapists imbue her body with and asserts her agency by allowing their child to grow in her body.

Thus, rather than being marked or polluted, her body becomes a vehicle for motherhood of an interracial child, pointing to a future where the possibility of racial harmony reigns. Despite the problematic nature of such a resolution, the ambiguous agency accorded to the female body as a vehicle for forgiveness and expiation cannot be undermined. His white protagonist, Mrs. Curren, in Age of Iron seems to embody this memory, invoking a desire in her to give expression to justice in a visceral manner.

Although Mrs. Curren nurtures her own private honor and shame, she fails to act against violence and injustice of the apartheid regime.

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In her failure to find her own language to articulate her shame and opposition to injustice, Mrs. Curren invokes her own corporeal self as a cipher that carries the burden of her culpability and her rage against injustice.

Despite her lack of political power, her racial and class identity in South Africa as a white professor has guaranteed Mrs. Curren certain rights and privileges over blacks.

Her white body, which is invested with cultural and political power, can be a powerful weapon of protest against apartheid. I thought of the five bodies, of their massive, solid presence in the burned-down hall…If someone had dug a grave for me then and there in the sand, and pointed, I would without a word have climbed in and lain down and folded my hands on my breast.

Coetzee - Age of Iron

And when the sand fell in my mouth and in the corners of my eyes I would not have lifted a finger to brush it away. Curren attempts to expiate for the crimes committed against blacks by sacrificing her own body, which is marked by her privileged racial identity. Her acute sense of injustice at racial killings compels her to leave her home after a police raid as a mark of protest.

She lies down in a street corner, exposing her body to the elements and refuses medication and the comforts of her middle-class existence. In this instance, Mrs. Curren strips her body of the privileges associated with her class and race, reducing it to bare matter. Curren to succumb to disease. Expiation through self-immolation is shown as an ineffective response to the crimes that are committed during apartheid, since it reconstitutes Mrs.

With her failure to act or speak against the injustices of apartheid, Mrs. However, disease and mortality that converge in her body is also a part of the natural cycle of life, rendering an authoritative discourse of expiation located in a privileged white body untenable.

While Coetzee explores the possibility of inserting the aging, sick, gendered white body of Mrs. Curren gives him food and offers him work, which latter offer offends him.

Later that evening, she spots the man staring at the TV through her window. Needless to say she's annoyed.

In the night, however, she has a sudden painful attack, and the man helps her. They form a sort of weird friendship as Vercueil spends most of his time near her house. One day she asks him to mail a letter to her daughter. He takes a long time to agree, but eventually he mails the letter.

Curren's housekeeper, Florence, returns from a trip and brings her two daughters and her son Bheki with her. Curren resents having Bheki in the house, but he has no other place to go.

His friend, who Mrs. Curren thinks is a hoodlum, gets into a fight with Vercueil, who disappears for a bit.

Around this time, policemen start hanging out near the house, apparently keeping tabs on Bheki and his friends. Tensions are rising. When Vercueil returns, he brings home a woman and they both pass out drunk in the living room. Overwhelmed with people, Mrs. Curren starts to feel that everyone is conspiring against her to take over her property before she even dies.

One day Mrs. Curren witnesses the same cops who previously talked to her disrespectfully, force Bheki and his friend, John, who are on bikes, to run into a truck.

John injures his head badly, and she sits in the street holding his head until the ambulance arrives. Previously insulated from racial hatred, Mrs. Cullen starts to realize that her neat little white world doesn't match the reality of police brutality against black people.

She wants to demand justice from the authorities for John's injury, but Florence won't let her because she's afraid to be involved with the police.

Age of Iron

They all go to the hospital to visit Bheki's friend, but Vercueil and Mrs. Curren wait in the car because she's in too much pain. Brought to tears, she admits to him that she hasn't told her daughter about her impending death. He encourages her to tell the truth, so her daughter doesn't resent her after she's gone.

At home that night, Mrs. Curren invites Vercueil to sleep on the couch. She catches herself wishing he lives there. Tragedy strikes again when Florence gets a phone call in the middle of the night saying her son is in trouble. Curren drives Florence and her daughter to Guglethu, an unsafe place, where they meet Mr. Thabane, Florence's cousin. Coetzee brings the two contrasting poets together from the High Romantic period negotiating the difficulties underlying human relations of the contemporary world.

Coetzee deftly handles the Romantic interventions of Wordsworth and Byron that spell out dichotomies that affect the structure of the novel.

The novel, Disgrace opens up in Cape Town and moves to a farm near Salem, a shift from the urban to the rural. Devil plays the centre of all these tracts. Lurie plans of writing an opulent Gluck-like opera, Byron in Italy, which suggests Romantic eroticism through notorious seduction.

Lurie is concerned with his waning sexual passion and his inconsequential interrogation of Melanie is deeply a Byronic concern. Byron created works like Cain, Mazeppa, Don Juan the heroes of which are autobiographically revealing. Sexual passion is too important to Byron which is not the case with father.

Though the heart be still as loving and the moon be still as bright. Who would have thought it would come to an end so soon and so suddenly. Lurie quotes from The Prelude of Wordsworth contrasting two ways of seeing, seeing literally with the eye, and seeing imaginatively.

Coetzee draws closer to Wordsworth at the end of chapter Five: William Wordsworth — , nature-poet. David Lurie -? Blest be the infant babe. No outcast he. Blest be the Babe. It is same identity that Coetzee relies on, at the instance of the dogs, Bev Shaw and Pollux, the difficult path that Lurie is endorsed with effecting an ironic closure to Chapter Five.

The Lucy poems of Wordsworth exclusively touch upon a strange combination of the simplicity of expression and the ambiguity of meaning dealing with issues of Otherness, change and death. Is this what you want in life? He waves a hand toward the garden, toward the house with sunlight glinting from its roof. Her partly-true narration omitting her secret rises from her sense of existing with grace, on the other hand Lurie meeting Mr.

Issacs speaks of the disgrace befallen to stay with him for long. Lurie always looks up to his daughter guiding him which has already been happening rather than the reverse.

Returning to Salem Lurie finds Lucy re-energized. She challenges him to rethink her position in his hierarchy You behave as if everything I do is part of the story of your life.

Well, contrary to what you think, people are not divided into major and minor. I am not minor. I have a life of my own, just as important to me as yours is to you, and in my life I am the one who makes the decisions. Like other novels of Coetzee, Disgrace has the allegorical finesse that indicates the black characters un-empathetic to their endorsed individual tragedies.

The novel bounds the pathetic conditions of animals and it becomes intense as Lurie reaches his rural farm where Lucy keeps the dogs for their owners. All these are watch-dogs betokening the conditions in new South Africa about the general state of anxiety about crime. Lurie at first is disturbed by their relentless barking, but he strikes affinity with Katy, a dispossessed bull dog and he likens the dog to the widowed and loverless Teresa Guiccoli.

Lurie acquaints with Bev Shaw, who runs an animal clinic the enterprise of which initially disregards the job. The change seems unpresumed with Lurie prioritizing the animal lot. His attachment is neither emotional nor unrelenting like the argumentative activist of animal rights. A novel abiding by the demands of time and place negotiating complex issues of divergent genre draws to an unassuming close landing in an irresolute terrain.

The unassuming close of the novel is not bereft of seriousness, commitment and responsibility as it offers claims for reassurance and utopian moments of social harmony. By way of braiding the narrative with operatic musing and pathetic reflections on animals, Coetzee appears to provide appropriate solutions through giving a call for the production of art and the affirmation of animal lives.

Lurie has no illusions about his odd and ludicrous work. He says, It would have been nice to be returned triumphant to society as the author of an eccentric little chamber opera. But that will not be. Desire broadens the reach of the ethical by throwing it back onto materiality, reprojecting the space of the body in a phantasmatic light, as both familiar and strange. Coetzee plays upon the foundering of the intellect and the random abundance of grace depending intimately on the body.

Such prodigal eroticizing of the immortal body, Costello shapes desire as a vehicle for spiritual yearning. The writer introduces him to the abject sorrow of being the recipient of crime. This sympathetic imagination bestows on Lurie an empathy for the animals which by the end of the novel develops in him the ability of imaginatively identifying with animals. The novel even in its end continues to manifest subtle shifts in Lurie revealing that he is no longer oblivious to others.

He decides not to sleep with prostitutes and to continue working at an animal shelter. If he came for anything, it was to gather himself, gather his forces. Here he is losing himself day by day. Lucy Lurie fills this space while engendering its emptiness. Lucy is projected as a lesbian family alone in the absence of her lover variously named Helen and Grace. The unexpected violence visited upon her creates grievous ripples in her life.

Lucy is thus abducted from the non-phallic radical sexuality into a neo-masculanist patriarchal society. Spivak suggests that the subaltern presence may be powerfully grafted in the gaps and omissions of the text.

The Writer assumes the responsibility of interrupting the arbitrariness and absoluteness infinitely and these endeavours are fundamentally ateleological. Hence, the new political order of South Africa is also questioned, given the ethical responsibility of Coetzee to continue his interruptive engagement with political totalities in the present. The paradox, of course, is that, from an ethical perspective, such as obligation is nothing less than infinite.

Works consulted Attridge D J. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading: Literature in the Event.Boulder: Lynne Reiner; Waiting for the Barbarians.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Her acute sense of injustice at racial killings compels her to leave her home after a police raid as a mark of protest.

The paradox, of course, is that, from an ethical perspective, such as obligation is nothing less than infinite.

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