My travels have gotten a bit scrambled because of my audiobook side reads on my recent trip. Tonight I finished up my South Africa read, and I will be moving on to Hungary tomorrow. For my S. Africa read, I picked another 1001 Books selection–this one by J. M. Coetzee. I liked it in a quiet sort of way. It didn’t change my world, but I’m glad to have read it. I’ll post my review; the Goodreads summary is minimal, so I will skip that.
Michael K. is a simple man with a harelip who works as a gardener in Cape Town at the time of a civil war in S. Africa. His elderly mother is ill and wants to return to the village where she grew up. When the pair cannot get travel permits, Michael loads his mother into a cart he has constructed from his bicycle and they set out to escape the city on foot. His mother dies en route, but Michael continues on. He lives simply, off what he can hunt or grow and develops a mindful attitude to the moments of each day. He is picked up and placed in work camps, and is at one point suspected of being in league with rebels hiding in the countryside. One section of the book shifts from Michael’s point of view to that of a medical officer who tries to understand who Michael is, and what makes him tick. In the end, Michael becomes a source of inspiration for him, making him yearn for a simple life of his own.
I liked following the world through Michael’s eyes. His simple approach to the world was oddly soothing. Race was mentioned exactly once in the book, when the medical officer is talking to a military officer and musing that he can’t even remember what they are fighting the war for, anyway. The answer, so minorities can have their rights. Otherwise race is entirely invisible in this book. Michael is described physically, but we never know the race of any of the characters.