The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. – TS Eliot.
I was thinking about this in relation to JM Coetzee. I think he wants to claim that he has achieved this or perhaps in his mind believes that he has. Sadly I don’t think this is the case. I think that instead he has produced a cult of himself – and again I think this is somewhere in his secret thoughts. The thoughts that only acknowledges when he gleefully dances with himself in the bathroom before getting into the shower. He then he nods to the mirror saying to himself ‘John (because obviously he refers to himself by his name) you are the man. How you have fooled them all, how you have outwitted those dumb fools with your silences and your mocking looks. How small they feel, how withering is my well-performed intellectual stare. How envious must all of my old school mates be. You are JOHN! I love JOHN. You are not unwanted!’ He goes towards the mirror and kisses himself. He tries to fondle his reflected nipple. (but perhaps this is all vastly unfair).
What irritates me is that although he may speak about the rights of animals, he shows a distinct inhumanity to the people who interview him publicly, ultimately affirming that he is more important than them. He comes across as a slightly more than intelligent schoolboy who is not top of his class but close to it. A boy who wishes to take out his anger at not being the top student through acts of sarcasm and passive mockery. It is a simple trick and is one that exudes an inferiority complex.
In saying this I admire some of his writing. Foe I think is a great work of fiction but if one wants to look into him as a person I offer Exhibit A:
I wish one could google ones own life and mind. ‘Where was I reading about Keats’s negative capability the other day’, ‘Was it me or my sister who my parents spoiled the most?’, ‘where did I put those bloody house keys again’ ‘where is the place that I won’t forget putting the object a’. It is so tiring trying to think all of this stuff out for oneself.