Monthly Archives: September 2014

J. M. Coetzee and Hilary Mantel: The Doubles

I have been considering whether or not J. M. Coetzee and Hilary Mantel have ever been compared. They are the only two writers to have historically won the Booker Prize twice, and this shared achievement offers a point of departure. Then there is the masterly control of the prose of these two, beneath which something elusive always vibrates; again both have this quality to their writing.

Finally, there is the question of meaning and its origin, here is Coetzee in Life and Times of Michael K:

‘Michaels means something, and the meaning he has is not private to me. If it were, if the origin of this meaning were no more than a lack in myself, a lack, say, of something to believe in […] if it were a mere craving for meaning that sent me to Michaels and his story, if Michaels himself were no more than what he seems to be (what you seem to be) […] then I would have every justification for retiring to the toilets behind the jockeys’ changing-rooms and locking myself into the last cubicle and putting a bullet through my head’ (p. 165).

Now, here is Mantel in A Place of Greater Safety:

‘Adultery is an ugly word. Time to end it, Annette thought; time to end what has never begun’ (p. 86).

It is the doubling and duplicitous figure of the ellipsis once again…