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J.M. Coetzee . Presented by Emily, Candice, Tracy & Kiwi. J.M. Coetzee – Biography. Birthday: 2-9-1940 Where: Cape Town, South Africa Parents: Afrikaner Language: English Education: ☆1963, master’s degree at the University of Cape Town ☆1969,Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austain

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j m coetzee
J.M. Coetzee

Presented by

Emily, Candice, Tracy & Kiwi

j m coetzee biography
J.M. Coetzee – Biography
  • Birthday: 2-9-1940
  • Where: Cape Town, South Africa
  • Parents: Afrikaner
  • Language: English
  • Education:

☆1963, master’s degree at the University of Cape Town

☆1969,Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austain

☆1984, as professor of general literature at the University of Cape Town

j m coetzee works
J.M. Coetzee – Works
  • As an Afrikaner’s writer, Coetzee is introspective and concerned about the surroundings of the colonized.
  • Coetzee’s important works: Life and Times of Michael K (1983), Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) and Disgrace (1999),etc..
  • His most works’ themes are about racial difference resulting in racial conflict and misunderstanding.
prizewinning works
Prizewinning Works
  • 1974 Dusklands – His first novel.
  • 1980 Waiting for the Barbarians

Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

James Tait Black Memorial Prize

. 1999Disgrace –

won the Nobel Prize in 2003

waiting for the barbarians introduction i

Waiting for the BarbariansIntroduction (i)

Coetzee often writes about racism and apartheid. This book is no exception. It is a story about a distant settlement at an unknown time. The settlement is being run by the Magistrate. They have for years lived a peaceful life in harmony with the surrounding natives.

introduction ii
Introduction (ii)

One day Colonel Joll from the Third Bureau arrives to the settlement with orders from the Empire. The natives— known as barbarians to the Empire—are recognized as a threat. Colonel Joll and his men have come to distinguish that threat. Joll's interrogation methods are cruel and the natives living close to the settlement are imprisoned and tortured.

introduction iii
Introduction (iii)

The people living in the settlement are becoming increasingly convinced that the barbarians are in fact a threat, and that a war has to be fought. They start living in fear and they feel that it is no longer safe to leave the settlement.

introduction iv
Introduction (iv)

The one person who feels sympathy for the barbarians and objects to how they are being treated is the Magistrate. He is soon seen as a traitor when he helps a young woman back to her native people and is himself thrown in jail.

character relationship

Waiting for the Barbarians

Character relationship

The relationship between the Magistrate and Colonel Joll is analogous to the relationship between the Magistrate and the barbarian girl. In both there are uneven relationships due to unequal social positions, one is superior and the other, subordinate.




Colonel Joll

Colonel Joll -- A representative of empire; he thinks except those who are dominated by imperialism, people are considered as barbarians.

 Different thoughts for civilization and barbarians

Magistrate -- He thinks that the civilized people who live under the empire are real barbarians.



“ … ‘Did no one tell him these are fishing people? ......’ I fling the letter at the window.”

(2830, par 3 )

“… ‘ When they saw us coming they tried to hide… Because they were hiding.’”

(2830, par 5)



Barbarian girl

  • He is not compatible with barbarian girl.

-- He is sleepy and sleeping with girl without sexual feeling.

  • They have less communication because they are from different worlds, the empire and aborigine.

The narrator, a country magistrate, a responsible official in the service of the Empire, accepts all of the order from the colonel to imprison the ‘barbarians’ before he realizes barbarians’ suffering and some unfair treatment.


Those so-called barbarian are nomads. Then, he seems to result from sympathy and fall in love with a barbarian girl. Finally, he helps the girl back to her hometown, but he is also suspected to be a traitor by colonel and then he is forced to be imprisoned.

summary of the text
Summary of the text
  • The country magistrate receives an order from the colonel to guard prisoners. At the same time, he is an eyewitness to how those barbarians are treated, so that he feels sympathy toward those barbarians.
a spiritual journey
A spiritual journey
  • Waiting for the Barbariansfollows the critical journey of a magistrate in an unnamed empire. The journey is personal and historical: it follows the cataclysms of a disintegrating empire and the associated crises of conscience of the central character.
the barbarous vs the civilized
The barbarous VS the civilized

 Anonymous figures and Colonel Joll

  • The men lack of names don't only apply to the civilized people, but also to the Barbarians.
  • Colonel Joll, a representative of the Empire, arrives, spreading fear among the settlers.
  • Dreams from narrator
  • This quotes shows how the Empire is centered around itself. "I am trudging across the snow of an endless pain towards a group of tiny figures playing around a snow castle“ (pp. 39-40).
the barbarous vs the civilized1
The barbarous VS the civilized

 Dreams from narrator

  • The parrot is a figurative representation of the town and its people. The water obviously is a representation of the Empire showed through the characteristics of the water, murkiness and lack of signs of life.

"A dead parrot: I hold it by the tail, its bedraggled feathers hang down, its soggy wings droop, its eyes sockets are empty. When I release it, it falls through the surface without a splash“ (p. 163).

about sight and hearing to colonel joll
About sight and hearing to Colonel Joll
  • The image of Joll's dark glasses foreshadows the girl's blinding at his hand.
  • Joll’s sun glassesimply the absence of humanism and his spiritual blindness.

“Is he blind? I could understand it if he wanted to hide blind eyes. But he is not blind. The discs are dark, they look opaque from the outside, but he can see through them.” (p.1)

about sight and hearing to colonel joll1
About sight and hearing to Colonel Joll
  • Joll’s grimly impersonal tone is the fact that exemplifies the Empire's hawkish stance.

“‘There is a certain tone,’ Joll says. ‘A certain tone enters the voice of a man who is telling the truth. Training and experience teach us to recognize that tone.’” (p. 5)

“Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt. That is what I bear away from my conversation with Colonel Joll…” (p. 5)

about sight and hearing to magistrate
About sight and hearing to Magistrate
  • Magistrate blocks the sessions of torture from his consciousness by refusing to hear. Ex. “Of the screaming which people afterwards claim to have heard from the granary, I hear nothing.” (p. 5)

“There has been something staring me in the face, and still I do not see it.” (p. 170)

  • Magistrate and the girl cannot speak to each other as equals

“I myself sit ….making the day’s entry in the log-book but listening too. The banter goes on in the pidgin of the frontier, and she is at no loss for words. I am surprised by her fluency, he quickness, her self-possession.” (p. 68)

  • Magistrate is a blur to a partially blind girl

“When she does not look at me I am a grey form moving about unpredictably on the periphery of her vision. When she looks at me I am a blur, a voice, a smell, a centre of energy that one day…” (p. 31)

  • The imperialists fail to recognize themselves as foreign, and instead assume their superiority, legitimacy, and indisputable right over the natives and the land of native inhabitant.

“They are welcome to whatever they want as long as they will stay and guard our lives. And the more they are fawned on, the more their arrogance grow. We know we cannot rely on them.” (p144)

“Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster; the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation. A mad vision yet a virulent one…” (p. 146)

works cited
Works Cited

Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for the barbarians. London : Vintage, 2000.

  • http://www.artsci.lsu.edu/voegelin.htm
  • http://lc.brooklyn.cuny.edu/smarttutor/literary_analysis.html
  • http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/

Colonel Joll. 8 May 2006 <http://hem.passagen.se/vilia/colonel.html>.

  • http://sievx.com/articles/mentions/2005
  • Sources of Photos:

Philip Glass: Waiting for the Barbarians, world premiere in Erfurt Theatre on September 10, 2005. 8 May 2006 <http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2005/Jul-Dec05/barbarians.htm>.