Mobile Fences: J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians
Fences usually enclose and separate, but they are also places of exchange neither inside nor outside. This concept is well represented in J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, because not only this novel is setted on the border between an undefined Empire and the barbarians’ lands, but it also plays with various declinations of the idea of limit and boundary. Through a reading which intends to highlight every kind of frame in the novel, it will emerge that no border is fixed and conclusive. Namely, in this book every real or metaphoric fence is called into question: the distinction between the duality of “us and them” is actually determined by the Empire’s walls which separate the inside from the outside in an arbitrary way; the magistrate (with the empathy he feels for the barbarian girl) is inevitably caught in a double bind; and, according to Emmanuel Lévinas’ philosophy, the desire to understand otherness reveals its predatory intentions from a post-colonial point of view. It is not possible to delineate an ultimate bordeline, and it will emerge that instead of a binary logic there is a more fruitful way of thinking, a way based on frames, paradoxes and literary texts which cannot be read as flat mirroring devices.
Attwell, David, J.M. Coetzee, South Africa and the Politics of Writing, Berkeley Cape Town, University of California Press, 1993
Coetzee, J.M., Waiting for the Barbarians, London, Secker & Warburg, 1980, trad. it. Aspettando i barbari, Torino, Einaudi, 2000.
Coetzee, J.M, Life and Times of Michael K, London, Secker & Warburg, 1983, trad. it. La vita e il tempo di Michael K, Torino, Einaudi, 2001.
Coetzee, J.M, Foe, London, Secker & Warburg, 1986, trad. it. Foe, Torino, Einaudi, 2005.
Coetzee, J.M - Attwell, David (ed.), Doubling the Point. Essays and Interviews, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1992.
Head, Dominic, J.M. Coetzee, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Helgesson, Stefan, Writing in Crisis: Ethics and History in Gordimer, Ndebele and Coetzee, Scottsville, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2004.
Huggan, Graham - Watson, Stephen (eds), Critical Perspectives on J. M. Coetzee, London, Macmillan, 1996.
Lévinas, Emmanuel, Totalité et Infini, The Hague, Nijhoff, 1971, trad. it. Totalità e infinito, Milano, Jaca Book, 1977.
Rovatti, Pier Aldo, Possiamo addomesticare l'altro? La condizione globale, Udine, Forum, 2007.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, "Ethics and Politics in Tagore, Coetzee and Certain Scenes of Teaching", Diacritics, XXXII.3-4 (2002): 17-31, trad. it. "Etica e politica in Tagore, Coetzee e in certe scene dell’insegnamento", Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Tre esercizi per immaginare l’altro, Ed. Davide Zoletto, aut aut, 329 (gennaio-marzo 2006): 109-137.
Wright, Laura, Writing “Out of All the Camps”. J.M. Coetzee’s Narratives of Displacement, New York, Routledge, 2006.
Zoletto, Davide, Il doppio legame Bateson Derrida. Verso un’etica delle cornici, Milano, Bompiani, 2003
You are free to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and to adapt the work. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).