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A collection of quotes and sayings by J. M. Coetzee on biography, books, suffering, cruel, storytelling, writing, change, fame, history, prison, fiction, moral and idea.

81 Famous Quotes By J. M. Coetzee On Life, Love, Heart, Literature, Dreams Etc

Quick Facts

Famous As: Novelist, Author

Born On: February 9, 1940

Born In: Cape Town

J. M. Coetzee is an illustrious South African translator, essayist, novelist and linguist who received the ‘Nobel Prize in Literature’ in 2003. Born in Cape Town, he pursued English and Mathematics at the ‘University of Cape Town’. He then pursued his Ph.D in German, linguistics and English. Once he was through with his doctorate, he started taking English literature classes at the ‘State University of New York, Buffalo’. besides the coveted Nobel prize, he also bagged in two ‘Booker Prize’ and various other nominations. Some of his notable works and novels include, ‘Dusklands’, ‘Waiting For The Barbarians’, ‘The Childhood Of Jesus’, ‘In The Heart Of The Country’, ‘The African Experience’, ‘The Old Woman and the Cats’ etc. Following is a collection of famous quotes and sayings by the Nobel Laureate which have been excerpted from the vast sea of his work. Let us browse though some popular thoughts and quotations by J. M. Coetzee which hold a world of wisdom.

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Become major, Paul. Live like a hero. That's what the classics teach us. Be a main character. Otherwise what is life for?

J. M. Coetzee

When all else fails, philosophize.

J. M. Coetzee

The secret of happiness is not doing what we like but in liking what we do.

J. M. Coetzee

(I)f we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution.

J. M. Coetzee

A book should be an axe to chop open the frozen sea inside us.

J. M. Coetzee

His own opinion, which he does not air, is that the origin of speech lie in song, and the origins of song in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul.

J. M. Coetzee

We must cultivate, all of us, a certain ignorance, a certain blindness, or society will not be tolerable.

J. M. Coetzee

Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt.

J. M. Coetzee

Perhaps; but I am a difficult person to live with. My difficulty consists in not wanting to live with other people.

J. M. Coetzee

Because a woman's beauty does not belong to her alone. It is a part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it.

J. M. Coetzee

I am not the we of anyone

J. M. Coetzee

You are going to end up as one of those sad old men who poke around in rubbish bins.” “I’m going to end up in a hole in the ground... And so are you. So are we all.

J. M. Coetzee

Sleep is no longer a healing bath, a recuperation of vital forces, but an oblivion, a nightly brush with annihilation.

J. M. Coetzee

It gets harder all the time, Bev Shaw once said. Harder, yet easier. One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be hard as hard can be grows harder yet.

J. M. Coetzee

Where civilization entailed the corruption of barbarian virtues and the creation of dependent people, I decided, I was opposed to civilization.

J. M. Coetzee

Words are coin. Words alienate. Language is no medium for desire. Desire is rapture, not exchange.

J. M. Coetzee

She gives him what he can only call a sweet smile. 'So you are determined to go on being bad. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. I promise, no one will ask you to change.

J. M. Coetzee

Was it serious? I don't know. It certainly had serious consequences.

J. M. Coetzee

For himself, then. For his idea of the world, a world in which men do not use shovels to beat corpses into a more convenient shape for processing.

J. M. Coetzee

No, Paul, I couldn't care less if you tell me made-up stories. Our lies reveal as much about us as our truths.' (Said to Paul by Elizabeth Costello, the interloping novelist-angel-inner voice).

J. M. Coetzee

He knows too much about himself to subject her to a morning after, when he will be cold, surly, impatient to be alone.

J. M. Coetzee

But he cannot see a connection between the end of yearning and the end of poetry. Is that what growing up amounts to: growing out of yearning, of passion, of all intensities of the soul?

J. M. Coetzee

Our lies reveal as much about us as our truths

J. M. Coetzee

Poetry speaks to you either at first sight or not at all. A flash of revelation and a flash of response.

J. M. Coetzee

Well, that is what you risk when you fall in love. You risk losing your dignity.

J. M. Coetzee

I truly believe I am not afraid of death. What I shrink from, I believe, is the shame of dying as stupid and befuddled as I am.

J. M. Coetzee

He does not know what freedom is. Freedom is a word, less than a word, a noise, one of the multitude of noises I make when I open my mouth.

J. M. Coetzee

Unimaginable perhaps; but the unimaginable is there to be imagined.

J. M. Coetzee

I speak to the broken halves of all our selves and tell them to embrace, loving the worst in us equally with the best.

J. M. Coetzee

And anyway, I suspect he secretly liked it when a woman was cold and distant

J. M. Coetzee

There seemed nothing to do but live.

J. M. Coetzee

I don't think we are ready to die, any of us, not without being escorted.

J. M. Coetzee

His mind has become a refuge for old thoughts, idle, indigent, with nowhere else to go. He ought to chase them out, sweep the premises clean. But he does not care to do so, or does not care enough"(72).

J. M. Coetzee

Temperament is fixed, set. The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body. Follow your temperament. It is not a philosophy, It is a rule, like the Rule of St Benedict.

J. M. Coetzee

I urge you: don't cut short these thought-trains of yours. Follow them through to their end. Your thoughts and your feelings. Follow them through and you will grow with them.

J. M. Coetzee

The truth is, he tired of criticism, tired of prose measured by the yard." --Disgrace

J. M. Coetzee

He would not mind hearing Petrus’s story one day. But preferably not reduced to English. More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa.

J. M. Coetzee

The Empire does not require that its servants love each other, merely that they perform their duty.

J. M. Coetzee

There is no position outside of reason where you can stand and lecture about reason and pass judgment on reason.

J. M. Coetzee

If only we could eat our sunsets, I say, we would all be full.

J. M. Coetzee

The jackal rips out the hare's bowels, but the world rolls on.

J. M. Coetzee

If i were pressed to give my brand of political thought a label, I would call it pessimistic anarchistic quietism

J. M. Coetzee

Perhaps it does us good to have a fall every now and then. As long as we don't break.

J. M. Coetzee

Do you hope you can expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present?

J. M. Coetzee

Empire as located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe.

J. M. Coetzee

...So that someone might want to put you in a book...So that you may be worth putting in a book...Live like a hero...Be a main character. Otherwise, what is life for?

J. M. Coetzee

...from the oppression of such freedom who would not welcome the liberation of confinement?

J. M. Coetzee

The sun's touch is kind.

J. M. Coetzee

To be full of being is to live as a body-soul. One name for the experience of full being is joy.

J. M. Coetzee

Deprived of human intercourse, I inevitably overvalue the imagination and expect it to make the mundane glow with an aura of self-transcendence.

J. M. Coetzee

If he has a last thought, if there is time for a last thought, it will simply be, So this is what a last thought is like.

J. M. Coetzee

It occurs to me that we crush insects beneath our feet, miracles of creation too, beetles, worms, cockroaches, ants, in their various ways.

J. M. Coetzee

This is what it leads to! This is what it leads to if you let your attention wander for a moment!

J. M. Coetzee

Truth is not spoken in anger.Truth is spoken, if it ever comes to be spoken, in love.

J. M. Coetzee

...we are on the road from no A to no B in the world...

J. M. Coetzee

The mistake the two of us made,’ I said, ‘was that we skimped the foreplay. I’m not blaming you, it was as much my fault as yours, but it was a fault nonetheless.

J. M. Coetzee

From one seed a whole handful: that was what it meant to say the bounty of the earth.

J. M. Coetzee

For, seen from the outside, from a being who is alien to it, reason is simply a vast tautology.

J. M. Coetzee

What more is required than a kind of stupid, insensitive doggedness, as lover, as writer, together with a readiness to fail and fail again?

J. M. Coetzee

All of which makes up a story I do not choose to tell. I choose not to tell it because to no one, not even to you, do I own proof that I am a substantial being with a substantial history in the world.

J. M. Coetzee

... but what do slow and fast matter any more?

J. M. Coetzee

I have never seen anything like it: two little discs of glass suspended in front of his eyes in loops of wire. Is he blind?

J. M. Coetzee

He tends to trust pictures more than he trusts words. Not because pictures cannot lie but because, once they leave the darkroom, they are fixed, immutable.

J. M. Coetzee

Jokes, secrets, complicities; a glance here, a word there: that is their way of being together, of being apart.

J. M. Coetzee

Je mehr sich die Dinge ndern, desto mehr bleibt alles beim alten.

J. M. Coetzee

Fate deals you a hand, and you play the hand you are dealt. You do not whine, you do not complain. That, he used to believe, was his philosophy. Why then can he not resist these plunges into darkness?

J. M. Coetzee

Is this love - this easy generosity, this sense of being understood at last, of not having to pretend?

J. M. Coetzee

All that I want now is to live out my life in ease in a familiar world, to die in my own bed and be followed to the grave by old friends.

J. M. Coetzee

What I did not know was how longing could store itself away in the hollows of one's bones and then one day without warning flood out.

J. M. Coetzee

How many people are there left who are neither locked up nor standing guard at the gate?

J. M. Coetzee

How easy it is to love a child, how hard to love what a child turns into!

J. M. Coetzee

Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger.

J. M. Coetzee

Den Staat kmmert nicht, ob der Brger lebt oder stirbt. Wichtig fr den Staat und sein Archiv ist, ob der Brger am Leben oder tot ist.

J. M. Coetzee

Also the air: the air is full of sighs and cries. These are never lost: if you listen carefully, with a sympathetic ear, you can hear them echoing forever within the second sphere.

J. M. Coetzee

He believed that our life-stories are ours to construct as we wish,within or even against the constraints posed by the real world...

J. M. Coetzee

Todo amor, al final es moderado

J. M. Coetzee

Do you think what happened here was an exam: if you come through, you get a diploma and safe conduct into the future, or a sign to paint on the door-lintel that will make the plague pass you by?

J. M. Coetzee