Famous Quotes & Sayings

J.M. Coetzee Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by J.M. Coetzee.

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J.M. Coetzee Quotes 180357

Empire as located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1819576

In its conception the literature prize belongs to days when a writer could still be thought of as, by virtue of his or her occupation, a sage, someone with no institutional affiliations who could offer an authoritative word on our times as well as on our moral life. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 782842

Temperament is fixed, set. The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body. Follow your temperament. It is not a philosophy, It is a rule, like the Rule of St Benedict. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1184592

Machiavelli says that if as a ruler you accept that your every action must pass moral scrutiny, you will without fail be defeated by an opponent who submits to no such moral test. To hold on to power, you have not only to master the crafts of deception and treachery but to be prepared to use them where necessary. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2230028

But it is the knowledge of how contingent my unease is, how dependent on a baby that wails beneath my window one day and does not wail the next, that brings the worst shame to me, the greatest indifference to annihilation. I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1802845

Women are sensitive to it, to the weight of the desiring gaze. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 265740

Music expresses feeling, that is to say, gives shape and habitation to feeling, not in space but in time. To the extent that music has a history that is more than a history of its formal evolution, our feelings must have a history too. Perhaps certain qualities of feeling that found expression in music can be recorded by being notated on paper, have become so remote that we can no longer inhabit them as feelings, can get a grasp of them only after long training in the history and philosophy of music, the philosophical history of music, the history of music as a history of the feeling soul. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 396301

Jokes have a relation to the unconscious.'
'Jokes may indeed have a relation to the unconscious. But also: sometimes a joke is just a joke.'
'Directed against-'
'Directed against you. Whom else? The man who doesn't laugh. The man who can't take a joke. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2089731

If you are not fully in the game you are playing, however, you are not truly playing it. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 841968

Yet we cannot live our daily lives in a realm of pure ideas, cocooned from sense-experience. The question is not, How can we keep the imagination pure, protected from the onslaughts of reality? The question has to be, Can we find a way for the two to coexist? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1721767

(I)f we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1791208

How many of the ragged workingmen who pass him in the street are secret authors of works that will outlast them: roads, walls, pylons? Immortality of a kind, a limited immortality, is not so hard to achieve after all. Why then does he persist in inscribing marks on paper, in the faint hope that people not yet born will take the trouble to decipher them? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1087138

What more is required than a kind of stupid, insensitive doggedness, as lover, as writer, together with a readiness to fail and fail again? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2165032

It is a world of words that creates a world of things. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 294178

Everyone seems to see bleakness and despair in my books. I don't read them that way. I see myself as writing comic books, books about ordinary people trying to live ordinary, dull, happy lives while the world is falling to pieces around them. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1366223

It occurs to me that we crush insects beneath our feet, miracles of creation too, beetles, worms, cockroaches, ants, in their various ways. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 873788

Unimaginable perhaps; but the unimaginable is there to be imagined. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 353487

Our lies reveal as much about us as our truths — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 717930

The spark of true poetry flashes when ideas are juxtaposed that no one has yet thought of bringing together. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 920274

And you trust yourself to divine that, from the words I use - to divine whether it comes from my heart? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 115189

You think you know what is just and what is not. I understand. We all think we know." I had no doubt, myself, then, that at each moment each one of us, man, woman, child, perhaps even the poor old horse turning the mill-wheel, knew what was just: all creatures come into the world bringing with them the memory of justice. "But we live in a world of laws," I said to my poor prisoner, "a world of the second-best. There is nothing we can do about that. We are fallen creatures. All we can do is to uphold the laws, all of us, without allowing the memory of justice to fade. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2008562

We must cultivate, all of us, a certain ignorance, a certain blindness, or society will not be tolerable. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 883461

When we are stirred to lament the loss of the gods, it is more than likely the gods who are doing the stirring. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 895035

Eating is a ritual, and rituals make things easier. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 833787

Perhaps; but I am a difficult person to live with. My difficulty consists in not wanting to live with other people. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1446518

Just as we bemoan the passing away of the Great Novel, a great novelist is likely to emerge, perhaps even from Denmark or Switzerland, to prove us wrong. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 85350

I do not believe that any form of lasting community can exist where people do not share the same sense of what is just and what is not just. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 96541

I urge you: don't cut short these thought-trains of yours. Follow them through to their end. Your thoughts and your feelings. Follow them through and you will grow with them. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 99136

There's nothing special about you,' said the man. 'There's nothing special about any of us.' His gesture embraced them all: prisoners, guards, foremen. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 105181

Freud's warning that what I omit without thinking (i.e. without conscious thought) may be the key to the deepest truth about me? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 109947

The devil is everywhere under the skin of things, searching for a way into the light. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 137407

The mode of consciousness of nonhuman species is quite different from human consciousness. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 167976

From the oppression of such freedom who would not welcome the liberation of confinement? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 175764

Let me say it openly: we are surrounded by an enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and killing which rivals anything that the Third Reich was capable of, indeed dwarfs it, in that ours is an enterprise without end, self-regenerating, bringing rabbits, rats, poultry, livestock ceaselessly into the world for the purpose of killing them. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 344784

Belief may be no more, in the end, than a source of energy, like a battery which one clips into an idea to make it run. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 361921

But with this woman it is as if there is no interior, only a surface across which I hunt back and forth seeking entry. Is this how her torturers felt hunting their secret, whatever they thought it was? For the first time I feel a dry pity for them: how natural a mistake to believe that you can burn or tear or hack your way into the secret body of the other! The girl lies in my bed, but there is no good reason why it should be a bed. I behave in some ways like a lover - I undress her, I bathe her, I stroke her, I sleep beside her - but I might equally well tie her to a chair and beat her, it would be no less intimate. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 362514

My existence from day to day has become a matter of averting my eyes, of cringing. Death is the only truth left. Death is what I cannot bear to think. At every moment when I am thinking of something else, I am not thinking death, am not thinking the truth. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 426949

State censorship presents itself as a bulwark between society and forces of subversion or moral corruption. To dismiss this account of its own motives by the state as insincere would be a mistake: it is a feature of the paranoid logic of the censoring mentality that virtue ... must be innocent, and therefore, unless protected, vulnerable to the wiles of vice. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 435946

Sleep is no longer a healing bath, a recuperation of vital forces, but an oblivion, a nightly brush with annihilation. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 447787

His mouth opens. From inside him comes a slow stream, without breath, without interruption. It flows up through his body and out upon me; it passes through the cabin, through the wreck; washing the cliffs and shores of the island, it runs northward and southward to the ends of the earth. Soft and cold, dark and unending, it beats against my eyelids, against the skin of my face. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 452481

This is what it leads to! This is what it leads to if you let your attention wander for a moment! — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 460122

Pain is nothing, just a warning signal from the body to the brain. Pain is no more the real thing than an X-ray photograph is the real thing. Biut of course he is wrong. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 463006

There is a cold war on the go. America and Russia are competing for the hearts and minds of Indians, Iraquies, Nigerians; scholarships to universities are among the inducements they offer. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 482364

The secret of happiness is not doing what we like but in liking what we do. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 508765

An aversion came over me that we feel for all the mutilated. Why is that so, do you think? Because they put us in mind of what we would rather forget: how easily, at the stroke of a sword or a knife, wholeness and beauty are forever undone? Perhaps. But toward you I felt a deeper revulsion. I could not put out of mind the softness of the tongue, its softness and wetness, and the fact that it does not live in the light; also how helpless it is before the knife, once the barrier of teeth has been passed. The tongue is like the heart, in that way, is it not? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 523343

In private I observed that once in every generation, without fail, there is an episode of hysteria about the barbarians ... These dreams are the consequence of too much ease. Show me the barbarian army and I will believe. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 531971

What is miraculous about the past is that we have succeeded
God knows how
in making thousands and millions of individual human beings, lock well enought into one another to give us what looks like a common past, a shared story. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 534422

If there is ever a word of criticism of America, it is of the most muted kind. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 591069

Speaking the words he had been taught, directing them no longer upward but to the earth on which he knelt, he prayed: 'For what we are about to receive make us truly thankful.' ... he ... felt his heart suddenly flow over with thankfulness ... like a gush of warm water ... All that remains is to live here quietly for the rest of my life, eating food that my own labour has made the earth to yield. All that remains is to be a tender of the soil. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 634645

I don't think we are ready to die, any of us, not without being escorted. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 670290

His mind has become a refuge for old thoughts, idle, indigent, with nowhere else to go. He ought to chase them out, sweep the premises clean. But he does not care to do so, or does not care enough(72). — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 670368

Lucy was frightened, frightened near to death. Her voice choked, she could not breath, her limbs went numb. "This is not happening", she said to herself as the men forced her down; "it is just a dream, a nightmare". While the men, for their part, drank up her fear, revelled in it, did all they could to hurt her, to menace her, to heighten her terror. "Call your dogs!" they said to her. "Go on, call your dogs! No dogs? Then let us show you dogs! — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 736444

Lebanon, Israel, Ireland, South Africa - wherever there is a bleeding sore on the body of the world, the same hard-eyed narrow-minded fanatics are busy, indifferent to life, in love with death. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 788508

With the buck before me suspended in immobility, there seems to be time for all things, time even to turn my gaze inward and see what it is that has robbed the hunt of its savour: the sense that this has become no longer a morning's hunting but an occasion on which either the proud ram bleeds to death on the ice or the old hunter misses his aim; that for the duration of this frozen moment the stars are locked in a configuration in which events are not themselves but stand for other things. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 790383

If only we could eat our sunsets, I say, we would all be full. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 815504

When I reflect on my story I seem to exist only as the one who came, the one who witnessed, the one who longed to be gone: a being without substance, a ghost beside the true body of Cruso. Is that the fate of all storytellers? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 850459

His own opinion, which he does not air, is that the origin of speech lie in song, and the origins of song in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 944268

We are not by nature cruel. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 967698

It's admirable, what you do, what she does, but to me animal-welfare people are a bit like Christians of a certain kind. Everyone is so cheerful and well-intentioned that after a while you itch to go off and do some raping and pillaging. Or to kick a cat. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1017501

Strictly speaking, my interest is not in legal rights for animals but in a change of heart towards animals. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1090478

Curious that a man as selfish as he should be offering himself to the service of dead dogs. There must be other, more productive ways of giving oneself to the world, or to an idea of the world ... But there are other people to do these things - the animal welfare thing, the social rehabilitation thing, even the Byron thing. He saves the honour of corpses because there is no one else stupid enough to do it. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1105600

Kafka saw both himself and Red Peter as hybrids, as monstrous thinking devices mounted inexplicably on suffering animal bodies. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1109106

In my experience poetry speaks to you either at first sight or not at all. A flash of revelation and a flash of response. Like lightning. Like falling in love. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1211024

What, after all, do I stand for besides an archaic code of gentlemanly behaviour towards captured foes, and what do I stand against except the new science of degradation that kills people on their knees, confused and disgraced in their own eyes? Would I have dared to face the crowd to demand justice for these ridiculous barbarian prisoners with their backsides in the air? Justice: once that word is uttered, where will it all end? Easier to shout No! Easier to be beaten and made a martyr. Easier to lay my head on a block than to defend the cause of justice for the barbarians: for where can that argument lead but to laying down our arms and opening the gates of the town to the people whose land we have raped? The old magistrate, defender of the rule of law, enemy in his own way of the State, assaulted and imprisoned, impregnably virtuous, is not without his own twinges of doubt. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1217552

In the night I took a lantern and went to see for myself. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1242534

Poetry speaks to you either at first sight or not at all. A flash of revelation and a flash of response. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1373913

There is no position outside of reason where you can stand and lecture about reason and pass judgment on reason. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1440149

In Coetzee's eyes, we human beings will never abandon politics because politics is too convenient and too attractive as a theatre in which to give play to our baser emotions. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1446757

How many people are there left who are neither locked up nor standing guard at the gate? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1477414

If i were pressed to give my brand of political thought a label, I would call it pessimistic anarchistic quietism — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1512402

If it is indeed impossible - or at least very difficult - to inhabit the consciousness of an animal, then in writing about animals there is a temptation to project upon them feelings and thoughts that may belong only to our own human mind and heart. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1535327

When death cuts all other links, there remains the name. Baptism: the union of a soul with a name, the name it will carry into eternity. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1557142

Since I was in flight from religion, I assumed that my classmates had to be in flight from religion too, albeit in a quieter, savvier way than I had as yet been able to discover. Only today do I realize how mistaken I was. They were never in flight at all. Nor are their children in flight, or their grandchildren. By the time I reached by seventieth year, I used to predict, all the churches in the world would have been turned into barns or museums or potteries. But I was wrong. Behold, new churches spring up every day, all over the place, to say nothing of mosques. So Nietzsche's dictum needs to be amended: while it may be so that only the higher animals are capable of boredom, man proves himself highest of all by domesticating boredom, giving it a home. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1557328

It seemed to me that all things were possible on the island, all tyrannies and cruelties, though in small; and if, in despite of what was possible, we lived at peace with another, surely this was proof that certain laws unknown to us held sway, or else that we had been following the promptings of our hearts all this time, and our hearts had not betrayed us. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1562222

Become major, Paul. Live like a hero. That's what the classics teach us. Be a main character. Otherwise what is life for? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1566042

What does he know of the force that drives the utmost strangers into each other's arms, making them kin, kind, beyond all prudence? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1591521

To me, a philosopher who says that the distinction between human and nonhuman depends on whether you have a white or a black skin, and a philosopher who says that the distinction between human and nonhuman depends on whether or not you know the difference between a subject and a predicate, are more alike than they are unlike. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1592708

There is first of all the problem of the opening, namely, how to get us from where we are, which is, as yet, nowhere, to the far bank. It is a simple bridging problem, a problem of knocking together a bridge. People solve such problems every day. They solve them, and having solved them push on.
Let us assume that, however it may have been done, it is done. Let us take it that the bridge is built andcrossed, that we can put it out of our mind. We have left behind the territory in which we were. We are inthe far territory; where we want to be. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1600660

Well, cast your mind back to the books he wrote. What is the one theme that keeps recurring from book to book? It is that the woman doesn't fall in love with the man. The man may or may not love the woman; but the woman never loves the man. What do you think that theme reflects? My guess, my highly informed guess, is that it reflects his life experience. Women didn't fall for him - not women in their right senses. They inspected him, maybe they even tried him our. Then they moved on. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1635457

For, seen from the outside, from a being who is alien to it, reason is simply a vast tautology. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1658122

As to who among us is a ghost and who not I have nothing to say: it is a question we can only stare at in silence, like a bird before a snake, hoping it will not swallow us. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1677442

Yet what happened in fact? In the middle of the night John woke up and saw me sleeping beside him with no doubt a look of peace on my face, even of bliss, bliss is not unattainable in this world. He saw me - saw me as I was at that moment - took fright, hurriedly strapped the armour back over his heart, this time with chains and a double padlock, and stole out into the darkness. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1684785

The highest type of intelligence, says Aristotle, manifests itself in an ability to see connections where no one has seen them before, that is, to think analogically. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1695495

South African literature is a literature in bondage. It is a less-than-fully-human literature. It is exactly the kind of literature you would expect people to write from prison. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1754359

It used to be that he, John, had too little employment. Now that is about to change. Now he will have as much employment as he can handle, as much and more. He is going to have to abandon some of his personal projects and be a nurse. Alternatively, if he will not be a nurse, he must announce to his father: I cannot face the prospect of ministering to you day and night. I am going to abandon you. Goodbye. One or the other: there is no third way. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1772618

In my own terms, I am being punished for what happened ... I am sunk into a state of disgrace from which it will not be easy to lift myself. It is not a punishment I have refused. I do not murmur against it. On the contrary, I am living it out from day to day, trying to accept disgrace as my state of being. Is it enough for God, do you think, that I live in disgrace without term? — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1815089

Not only may you not enter the state without certification: you are, in the eyes of the state, not dead until you are certified dead; and you can be certified dead only by an officer who himself (herself) holds state certification. The state pursues the certification of death with extraordinary thoroughness - witness the dispatch of a host of forensic scientists and bureaucrats to scrutinize and photograph and prod and poke the mountain of human corpses left behind by the great tsunami of December 2004 in order to establish their individual identities. No expense is spared to ensure that the census of subjects shall be complete and accurate.
Whether the citizen lives or dies is not a concern of the state. What matters to the state and its records is whether the citizen is alive or dead. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1929034

Let me tell you the meaning of the sacred and alluring garden that blooms in the heart of the desert and produces the food of life. The garden for which you are currently heading is nowhere and everywhere except in the camps. It is another name for the only place where you belong, Michaels, where you do not feel homeless. It is off every map, no road leads to it that is merely a road, and only you know the way. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1957987

Was it serious? I don't know. It certainly had serious consequences. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1969298

I speak to the broken halves of all our selves and tell them to embrace, loving the worst in us equally with the best. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1981850

Anyone who says that life matters less to an animal than it does to us has not held in his hands an animal fighting for its life. The whole of the being of the animal is thrown into that fight, without reserve. When you say that the fight lacks a dimension of intellectual or imaginative horror, I agree. It is not the mode of being animals to have an intellectual horror: their whole being is in the living flesh ... I urge you to walk, flank to flank, beside the beast that is prodded down the chute to his executioner. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 1985214

The jackal rips out the hare's bowels, but the world rolls on. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2013517

Censorship is not an occupation that attracts intelligent, subtle minds. Censors can and often have been outwitted. But the game of slipping Aesopian messages past the censor is ultimately a sterile one, diverting writers from their proper task. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2026852

He even knew the reason why: because enough men had gone off to war saying the time for gardening was when the war was over; whereas there must be men to stay behind and keep gardening alive, or at least the idea of gardening; because once that cord was broken, the earth would grow hard and forget her children. That was why. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2053720

There seemed nothing to do but live. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2055021

The most important of all rights is the right to life, and I cannot foresee a day when domesticated animals will be granted that right in law. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2141106

What is there left for me after my purgatory of solitude? ... I welcome death as a version of life in which I will not be myself. There is a fallacy here which I ought to see but will not. For when I wake on the ocean floor it will be the same old voice that drones out of me ... — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2204448

...she prefers to think in similitudes rather than reason things out... — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2230599

She gives him what he can only call a sweet smile. 'So you are determined to go on being bad. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. I promise, no one will ask you to change. — J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee Quotes 2271724

It gets harder all the time, Bev Shaw once said. Harder, yet easier. One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be hard as hard can be grows harder yet. — J.M. Coetzee