“Waiting for the Barbarians” by J. M. Coetzee

Critical Observations

Asked about the barbarians and why they seemed disgruntled, the following was Colonel Joll’s response:

I will say nothing of the recent raids carried out on them, quite without justification, and followed by acts of wanton cruelty, since the security of the Empire was at stake, or so I am told. It will take years to patch up the damage done in those few days. But let that pass, let me rather tell you what I find disheartening as an administrator, even in times of peace, even when border relations are good. There is a time in the year, you know when the nomads visit us to trade (Coetzee 36).

Coetzee has applied objectification in his book and especially in the above text. This leads to the following questions: By composing his heartbreaking representation of the sins of humankind that perceives itself inferior to humans, what is Coetzee attempting to state? Can we run away from the need to objectify? Coetzee describes the lack of ethical authority that leads to torture with the absence at the center of modern literature from the beginning of deconstructive ridicule. This deficiency is brought about by the capability of writing and announcing the facts about this form of repression and torture wholly and successfully. By constructing his perspective of the torment that he describes, Coetzee is successful in achieving this, even though a bit deceitfully (Coetzee 67). By separating his storyline in his personal constructed perspective, he is culpable of objectifying. He affirms that all occasions of persecution by the barbarians are propelled by similar principal aspects of hate and malice. Coetzee intentionally shows that the only means to ascertain the reality about a theme is to separate oneself from it. Therefore, we can ascertain that what unifies the oppressors, besides recognizing what differentiates the oppressors from the audience, is the reader.

The “perfect-world” setting where characters are ever correct, can result in some exciting awareness, provided an individual comprehends the fact that it is mere fiction and that the ethical facts it supports may not be valid to the actual world. This is not the only form of representation used by the author; Coetzee also applies the idea of fictional foreignness to emphasize the weaknesses of allegory. In her article: “The Agony and the Allegory: The Concept of the Foreign, the Language of Apartheid, and the Fiction of J.M. Coetzee,” Rebecca makes contrasts connecting the reportable speech that Colonel Joll makes in his relations to persecution and the concept of allegory (Saunders 215-235). She describes this language as one where all elements of strangeness have been carried and where sureness is strengthened by a deliberate administration of context. Rebecca argues that Coetzee has used allegory and objectification in this text as dramatic precincts and that a significant connection survives between them (Saunders 235-264). Foreignness is almost unavoidable when writing about actions that have not occurred, especially when authors want to detach themselves while preserving some level of authority. Rebecca is finding it ironic for Coetzee to employ objectification in ascertaining a fact when it may not be there in reality and simultaneously building a feeling of disengagement that makes the fact to be unclear in the first instance. However, objectification has truth in the view that it may not essentially relate to the true state that it is intending to illustrate (LaCapra 67).

Works Cited

Coetzee, John. Waiting for the Barbarians. New York: Random House, 2004. Print.

LaCapra, Dominick. History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. Print.

Saunders, Rebecca. “The Agony and the Allegory: the Concept of the Foreign, the Language of Apartheid, and the Fiction of J.M. Coetzee.” Cultural Critique 47.1 (2001): 215-64.

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