J M Coetzee: The Childhood of Jesus


The latest addition to my website is J M Coetzee‘s The Childhood of Jesus. This book is not about the childhood of Jesus, except, perhaps, very tangentially. What it is about is the arrival of the five-year old David and the forty-five year old Simón in an unnamed Spanish-speaking country, where new arrivals seem to have forgotten everything about their previous lives and slot into fairly mundane lives, whose main excitement seems to be, at least for the men, the occasional game of football. Romance and sex are highly limited, as is quality food, most people subsisting on bread.


Not only is the title something of a mystery, so are the covers. The one above, on the left, is the UK cover and seems to have no relevance to the story at all, except, perhaps to a very minor incident in the story. The one to the right is the Australian cover and does have a bit more relevance to the story, but only towards the end. Is David, the five-year old, meant to represent the young Jesus? He is different, does not fit in, has his own language and, indeed, his own world, and is highly imaginative. As in other Coetzee novels, not all is explained. Nevertheless, this is another fine novel from Coetzee, even if not his best.

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