The 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature was won by the South African novelist J.M. Coetzee. This is wonderful news, Coetzee, 63, is unquestionably among the greatest living writers in English. The Nobel has often been misapplied. It evaded Tolstoy, Chekhov, Joyce, Kafka and Nabokov. It was won, on the other hand, by Bjornstjerne Bjornson, José Echegaray, Rudolf Eucken and others now wholly forgotten. In many cases, the judges seem to have been influenced by political, rather than literary factors. But in choosing Coetzee, the judges have got it right and ignored the fact that Coetzee has many things to say that do not sit comfortably with liberal political assumptions.
His books deal with difficult, painful matters – betrayal, the abuse of power, the nature of evil, our cruel treatment of animals- and ultimately they express deep scepticism over whether or not any of us are capable of true empathy with others. Coetzee presents these unwelcome truths with a rigour and purity that cannot be ignored.
Coetzee was born in Cape Town in 1940 and trained as a computer scientist, coming to London in the Sixties to work for IBM, a period recollected in a superb autobiographical novel. He then became a professor of literature in the United States, initially using his computing skills for verbal analysis of writers, before returning to Cape Town in the early Seventies, where he has continued to teach and publish literary criticism. His first fiction, Dusklands, was published in 1794, followed by In The Heart of The Country and Waiting for Barbarians, which swiftly won him international recognition.
I. READING COMPREHENSION
1. Are the following statements TRUE or FALSE? Copy the evidence from the text. No marks are given for only TRUE or FALSE answers.
a) Many years ago Tolstoy was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
b) Coetzee has not yet written any book based on his life.
- FALSE: Coetzee was born in Cape Town in 1940 and trained as a computer scientist, coming to London in Sixties to work for IBM, a period recollected in a superb autobiographical novel.
2. According to the text and using your own words, answer the following questions:
a) Why has the Nobel Prize been sometimes wrongly awarded?
b) What did Coetzee do professionally before he wrote his first novel?
II. USE OF ENGLISH
3. Find the words in the text that mean:
- a) without doubt (paragraph 1): unquestionably
- b) completely (paragraph 2): wholly
- c) ideas (paragraph 2): assumptions
- d) quickly (paragraph 4): swiftly
4. Complete the following sentences. Use the appropriate form of the word in brackets when given.
- a) Coetzee, who was born in South Africa in 1940, won the Nobel Prize last year.
- b) Before winning (win) the Nobel Prize, Coetzee received/had received (receive) international recognition.
- c) James Joyce, whose works are still universally known, was not chosen (not choose) for the Nobel Prize during his lifetime.
- d) The German Rudolf Eucken, a Nobel Prize winner, wrote about/on ethics and religion. But his works are almost forgotten today.