Viking Penguin author J.M. Coetzee wins Nobel Prize for Literature

The Swedish Academy this morning announced that South African J.M. Coetzee has won the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature.  The Academy judges said of the 63-year old writer, who has twice won the Booker Prize, that 'It is in exploring weakness and defeat that Coetzee captures the divine spark in man.' The Academy also commented that Coetzee's novels are characterized by their 'well-crafted composition, pregnant dialogue and analytical brilliance.'

Viking Penguin has been Coetzee's publisher since 1982, when Penguin published his second novel, Waiting for the Barbarians, as a trade paperback original.  Coetzee has published eight works of fiction (four were published by Viking in hardcover, and all eight of the novels are in print as Penguin trade paperbacks), five works of nonfiction, and two memoirs, Youth and Boyhood, both also published by Viking Penguin.

His ninth work of fiction, Elizabeth Costello, will be published in the United States by Viking on October 13, 2003.

Kathryn Court, who is the President of Penguin and Coetzee's editor at the company since 1982, commented that 'to say I am thrilled about John winning the Nobel Prize is an understatement.  He's a writer who can see deep into the human soul.  His is a rare gift.

Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish academy, said the decision to award the prize to Coetzee was an easy one.  'We were very much convinced of the lasting value of his contribution to literature.  He is a writer that will continue to be discussed and analyzed and we think he should belong to our literary heritage.'  The prize will be presented on December 10 in Sweden.  Penguin publishes the work of 29 Nobel laureates, including John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, and Nadine Gordimer. 

J.M. Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1940 and educated in South Africa and the United States as a computer scientist and linguist.  His works of fiction include Dusklands (first published in South Africa in 1974, and in America in 1985), In the Heart of the Country (1977, winner of the premier South African literary award and the CNA Prize), Waiting for the Barbarians (1982, winner of the CNA Prize, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize), Life & Times of Michael K (1984, Winner of the Booker Prize and the Prix Etranger Femina), Foe (1987), Age of Iron (1990), The Master of Petersburg (1994, winner of The Irish Times International Fiction Prize) and Disgrace (1999), winner of the Booker Prize.  Among his nonfiction books are Youth:  Scenes From Provincial Life II (2002), Stranger Shores:  Literary Essays (2001); Boyhood:  Scenes From Provincial Life (1997), Giving Offense:  Essays on Censorship (1996), Doubling the Point:  Essays and Interviews (1992), and White Writing:  On the Culture of Letters in South Africa (1990).  With Andre Brink, Coetzee edited A Land Apart:  A South African Reader (1987), and he is also the editor of The Lives of Animals (1999), part of Princeton University Press' 'University Center for Human Values Series.'   Coetzee also won the Jerusalem Prize in 1987.