J M Coetzee's Disgrace named "best novel in the Commonwealth from 1980 to 2005"

J M Coetzee's Disgrace named "Best Novel Published in the British Commonwealth from 1980 to 2005" in recent Observer poll


J.M. Coetzee's DisgraceJ.M. Coetzee's Disgrace has been named the best novel published in the British Commonwealth from 1980 to 2005, according to the results of a poll published in the October 8th edition of The Observer. In addition, Martin Amis' Money was declared a runner-up, and John McGahern's Amongst Women was #8 on the list. All three books are Penguin titles.

Last spring, The New York Times Book Review asked the question: "What is the best work of American Fiction of the last 25 years?" A prestigious group of authors, critics and editors were polled and Toni Morrison's Beloved emerged as the top vote-getter. This fall, The Observer decided to ask a similar question regarding the British Commonwealth fiction for the same generation (1980-2005). The Observer sent letters to approximately 150 writers and "literary sages," inviting them to confidentially nominate "the best novel (in English, excluding America) for the years 1980-2005."

The Observer wrote: "J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace received nominations from writers across the English-speaking world. This unforgettable novel of the South African crisis has already brought its author a record-breaking second Booker Prize in 1999...Just as, in the US, Toni Morrison's Beloved isolates and finally redeems a primal trauma associated with slavery, so Disgrace addresses the complexity of black and white relations in the dying days of apartheid. As readers, we want our 'great novels' to include as much as possible of experience and to address the great issues of our time. The ominous drumbeat of race continues to reverberate through English and American culture, in different ways. Where Morrison, in true American style, set out to redefine and enlarge the scope of classic American literature, Coetzee, more modestly, took a South African campus story and found in that tortured microcosm a bleak tale that haunts as much as any grander narrative.

"John Coetzee himself is an appealing figure: discreet, professorial, and soft-spoken. Wisely shunning the literary circus, he is our Invisible Man. He lives quietly; he rides his bike; he writes. Slowly, the work accumulates. He is a writer's writer, but he's a reader's writer, too. Which is how we return him to Observer readers, a great contemporary whose work we are lucky enough to find in our own time."

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