The Slow Philosophy of J. M. Coetzee

A refreshing new look at the writings of the Nobel laureate
Jan Wilm, The Slow Philosophy of J. M. Coetzee
In The Slow Philosophy of J.M. Coetzee Jan Wilm analyses Coetzee’s singular aesthetic style which, he argues, provokes the reader to read his works slowly. The effected ‘slow reading’ is developed into a method specifically geared to analyzing Coetzee’s singular oeuvre, and it is shown that his works productively decelerate the reading process only to dynamize the reader’s reflexion in a way that may be termed philosophical. Drawing on fresh archival material, this is the first study of its kind to explore Coetzee’s writing process as already slow; as a program of seemingly relentless revision which brings forth his uniquely dense and crystalline style. Through the incorporation of material from drafts and notebooks, this study is also the first to combine an exploration of the writer’s stylistic choices with a rigorous analysis of the reader’s responses. The book includes close readings of Coetzee’s popular and lesser known work, including Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians, Elizabeth Costello, Life and Times of Michael K and Slow Man.


““Slowness is Beauty”: Pound’s Cantos echo Binyon’s dictum and turn it into a modernist motto. Jan Wilm’s alert and thoughtful book energizes the motto by joining fictional syntax and philosophical meditation in patient analyses of the manuscripts. The craft of slowness is shown to underpin the work of Coetzee as he rethinks high modernism. The point is to frustrate a naïve wish to rush to conclusions or reach simple ideas about life, ethics and aesthetics. By learning to read more slowly, we read up on a dauntingly complex world, letting its beauty shine while discriminating between equivocal values.”

— Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania, USA

“Since the publication of Elizabeth Costello (2003), a lively conversation has developed around Coetzee in philosophy, and philosophy in Coetzee. Jan Wilm brings a new dimension to this debate in The Slow Philosophy of J.M. Coetzee, showing in a series of refreshing readings how the philosophical and the literary come together in a single experience of slow reading. Both erudite and accessible, and drawing fresh insights from Coetzee’s archive, Wilm provides an original account of the Nobel laureate’s distinctively meditative fiction.”

—  David Attwell, University of York, UK

You can find out more about this title at the Bloomsbury website.

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