I finally finished reading "The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee" this evening. Having completed Dusklands now, I am looking to begin reading In the Heart of the Country, which I will probably start one of the next few days. I just do not want to push myself to far away from my current focus, which is to wrap up the preparatory phase for the next section of the dissertation and begin writing on The Master of Petersburg. To that end, I have begun rereading the criticism and will work my way through the pile over the next few weeks. Still, I think reading another novel will be a pleasant break from the denser, less pleasurable texts I will be revisiting.
I did enjoy Dusklands, especially "The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee," the second--and longer--of the two novellas making up Coetzee's first book. While "The Vietnam Project" is considerably more pertinent to my research, "The Narrative" was a more enjoyable read. Like much of Coetzee's work, the second novella explores many of the power dynamics at work in a colonial society as well as the role of history and counterhistory in the construction of nationhood. Unlike the psychologically disturbing Eugene Dawn of "The Vietnam Project," Jacobus Coetzee is a laughably foppish character throughout much of the text, which makes for an easier read. He is, however, a violent, vengeful racist at the center of some horrifying scenes, which can strike a very different chord of discomfiture than those involving the tragically insane Dawn. Whereas the vile behavior of Dawn can be chalked up to a lone individual's mental illness, Jacobus Coetzee's moral transgressions are bolstered by state-supported attitudes of racial superiority--something many readers will find very painful to contemplate (though, I'm sure, a similarly strong case could be made for the dehumanizing effects of military bureaucracy in "The Vietnam Project"). Not his best work, but a wonderful book nonetheless.
For tomorrow: More criticism and, if I feel up to it, begin In the Heart of the Country.