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Now I remember why I stumbled across the Slow Manifesto last night. I was about to google “Slow Man” when the automated suggestion “Slow Manifesto” caught my attention. Needless to say, I completely forgot about Slow Man.

So here we go again…Slow Man…Cotzee. Oh yeah right, C-o-e-t-z-e-e, thanks google (such a know-it-all).

Complete Review says “No consensus [among the reviewers], with quite a few quite disappointed.” I’m not sure whether I’m disappointing or not. I’m not overly familiar with Coetzee’s authorship so I suppose I did not really know what to expect. Except that it was about a man who lost his leg, and frankly how much fun could that be? So I read Elizabeth Costello before Slow Man because I knew they would interlink somehow. I wish I hadn’t. I did not really like Costello, an author (Coetzee’s alter-ego?) who gives, or listen to other people give, lectures. So her presence in Slow Man was annoying as hell. Otherwise, a quite pleasant novel. -What you would expect from a Nobel Prize winner? I don’t know, what do you expect from a Nobel Prize winner? -Something touching. Moving. That crawls underneath your skin? In that case, no. -But a literary experiment? Yes, perhaps. But a pretty boring one. Or maybe the experiment, the initial question, was interesting, but the result, the answer, was boring. Such things happens. -Pushing boundaries is not interesting? If you have nothing of  interest to say I see no need with pushing boundaries, only for the sake of pushing.

In Elizabeth Costello I took loads of notes because I thought she was quite clever to begin with. Then she loses her mind (Alzheimer’s?…I have no backing for this theory, I suspect it is not even the case. But either that, or I lost my mind because I could not follow any of her reasoning after chapter 6.). In Slow Man she is not so interesting, does not do or talk much at all actually. But there is something she says about language that hit a nerve with me:

‘Ever since you reminded me of your French past, you  know, I have been listening with pricked ears. And, yes, you are right: you speak English, you probably think in English, you may even dream in English, yet English is not your true language. I would even say that English is a disguise for you, or a mask, part of your tortoiseshell armour. As you speak I swear I can hear words being selected, one after another, from the word-box you carry around with you, and slotted into place. That is not how a true native speak, one who is born into a language.’

‘How does a native speak?’

‘From the heart. Words well up within and he sings them, sings along with them. So to speak.’

I have two word-boxes. One that once wasn’t a word-box at all. It was the true language of a native who spoke from the heart. But I pushed the language into a word-box because it wasn’t good enough for me. Too limiting. I still carry it close to heart, but it is not the same. As for the other word-box, I speak English, think in English and maybe, possibly dream in English, although I don’t think I dream in any language at all. But of course, there will always be that accent, that process of selecting the words, the unnaturalness in speaking, the contrived in the writing. I was too greedy and wanted a language that was not mine. Now, all I have are my two word-boxes, and no langauge. No song.

In the novel, Elizabeth Costello offers Paul language lessons. ‘I will teach you how to speak from the heart.’ So dear Mr. Coetzee, I know you are not Elizabeth Costello but I know a part of her is you. Would you please give me language lessons and teach me to speak from the heart?

on twitter

  • RT @artinsociety: Albrecht Dürer died #OTD 1528, almost 500 years ago, but his studies of animals and bugs live on ~ here’s his finely-obse… 10 months ago
  • RT @TheSyriaCmpgn: These photos show the devastating conditions Syrian refugees are facing in Lebanon after a brutal storm left their tents… 1 year ago
  • RT @jeremycorbyn: I, Daniel Blake will be shown on TV for the first time, tonight at 9.45pm on BBC 2. It shows the human cost of this Tory… 1 year ago


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mimi harcourt