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A broad range of stunning essays from Australia’s resident Nobel laureate.

Crossing J.M. Coetzee’s range of well-known writerly interests, including Beckett, with essays on Australian writers including Gerald Murnane, Patrick White and Les Murray.

The subjects covered range from Daniel Defoe in the early eighteenth century to Coetzee’s contemporary Philip Roth. Coetzee has had a long-standing interest in German literature and here he engages with the work of Goethe, Hölderlin, Kleist and Walser. There are four fascinating essays on fellow Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett. There are essays too on Tolstoy’s great novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, on Flaubert’s masterpiece Madame Bovary, and on the Argentine modernist Antonio Di Benedetto.

J.M. Coetzee, a great novelist himself, is a wise and insightful guide to these works of international literature that span three centuries.


The scale of Coetzee's reading makes most British criticism seem dully provincial.

Daily Telegraph

JM Coetzee is a critic in the classic mode. His essays are models of clarity, judicious reasoning, and respectful attention to the intentions as well as the mixed achievements of other writers. I am inclined to think of Coetzee as a Confucian critic, a kind of sage who brings composure to bear on the earthquake zones of mind and heart. He is a master of prose’s lucidities, all the while cognisant of the hidden presence of poetry, which arises from the domain of the unutterable, the unconscious, the realms of disorder. Coetzee has read his history and knows its politics. Late Essays is a sustained scrutiny of fictions as psychological/political events in the real world. The essays become micro-biographies, or penetrating raids on biographies that have been done. They steer clear of happiness. Readers might baulk at their melancholic inevitabilities. But all of a sudden – and slap in the middle of the collection – they will find themselves in the lap of warm tenderness.

Barry Hill, The Monthly

This book of criticism casts all sort of gleaming spotlights, amid the shadows, from one of the major novelistic intelligences of our time. If you make the effort, it will shine and shine. The piercing passion of Coetzee’s feeling for literature is pulled back, but the degree of constraint only makes it more intense.

Peter Craven, The Australian

To read Late Essays ... has the effect of watching someone look for the secret, difficult rub of creativity.

Anna Funder, The Sydney Morning Herald

In these essays, Coetzee is doing for the writers who came before him what I imagine he hopes will be done for him by the writers who will follow. He is gravedigging, with probity, with the greatest reverence for the craft they share, and in this way is saying thank you in the only way one writer can really say it to another, which is by writing about them well.

Benjamin Ogden, The New York Times Book Review

Coetzee the critic is every bit as good as Coetzee the novelist.

Irish Times

One of the greatest writers of our time.

LA Times

The subject matter ranges from adultery and unrequited love to loneliness and society's double standards. Australian readers will particularly enjoy the piece on Patrick White, whom Coetzee regards as the greatest writer Australia has produced. What makes the collection so enjoyable is that each essay combines literary critique with literary biography, and most also include a discussion of the writer's literary influences and the historical context.

Nicole Abadee, Australian Financial Review

A writer of JM Coetzee’s stature needs no preamble… This book emerges as an engaging series of master classes in novel writing, from which we might distil a selection of dos and don’ts

Lauren Elkin, The Guardian

J.M. Coetzee's essays are filtered through boundless reserves of knowledge, wisdom and reading...A spare, dry sense of humour...Not a single page goes by in this collection when you don't learn something


Coetzee remains a highly original thinker, able to take a much-dissected novel such as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and offer an appreciation that stretches the boundaries of the reading experience. The most intriguing essay is one on Philip Roth, a rare occasion where Coetzee tackles one of his contemporaries

Tobias Grey, Financial Times

Coetzee’s essays are exemplars of his own careful reading while also providing engaging, accessible, and informative insights into writers and their works. The scope of this new collection is wide, encompassing familiar and less familiar writers. It includes four essays on Australian writers. His insights are those of a fellow writer who faces similar issues in tackling problems of narration, but one who has, in addition, the sensibility of a literary scholar and teacher. Above all, he brings the perspective of one who has much to teach us about slow reading.

Sue Kossew, Australian Book Review

It is Coetzee's response to Murnane, whom he interprets as a "radical idealist", that is the highlight of Late Essays. Coetzee examines in detail the way in which Murnane has transubstantiated the base matter of his life into extraordinary, multifaceted, generically ambiguous fictions, firmly rejecting the idea that the formal peculiarities and obsessive qualities of Murnane's writing speak of an absence of genuine feeling. In making an impassioned case for Murnane's "emotional conviction", Coetzee reveals a striking affinity with his subject and provides an example of his literary criticism at its very best.

James Ley, The Sydney Morning Herald

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    August 28, 2017

    Knopf Australia

    304 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    August 28, 2017

    Random House Australia

    304 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
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    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by J.M. Coetzee

The Good Story
Here and Now
Scenes from Provincial Life
Inner Workings
Waiting For The Barbarians
In The Heart Of The Country
Master Of Petersburg
Life And Times Of Michael K
Elizabeth Costello
Stranger Shores


The Rub of Time
There It Is Again
A Room Of One's Own
The Histories
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Feel Free: Essays
Nineteen Eighty Four
Medea And Other Plays
The Crucible
Jane Eyre
The Great Gatsby
The Outsiders
Pride And Prejudice
The Republic
Crime And Punishment
The Picture of Dorian Gray