For decades the Magistrate has run the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement, ignoring the impending war between the barbarians and the Empire, whose servant he is. But when the interrogation experts arrive, he is jolted into sympathy with the victims and into a quixotic act of rebellion which lands him in prison, branded as an enemy of the state. Waiting for the Barbarians is an allegory of oppressor and oppressed. Not just a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times, the Magistrate is ...
For decades the Magistrate has run the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement, ignoring the impending war between the barbarians and the Empire, whose servant he is. But when the interrogation experts arrive, he is jolted into sympathy with the victims and into a quixotic act of rebellion which lands him in prison, branded as an enemy of the state. Waiting for the Barbarians is an allegory of oppressor and oppressed. Not just a man living through a crisis of conscience in an obscure place in remote times, the Magistrate is an analogue of all men living in complicity with regimes that ignore justice and decency.
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The book engaged me with sensual and lively details and a precise plot. It made me feel as if I had been in the middle the of the grim scenes of imprisonment and torturing. And it is not that long! While I liked the book in general, I thought that there were some parts that felt a little too symbolic and therefore unrealistic. For example, the Magistrate, the protagonist of the novel, is rather described as the most sympathetic human being in the world, whereas the inspector was the obvious bad guy, wearing sunglasses as the symbol of his inhumanity. But in general, I recommend it to anyone who likes to kill time with short stories or likes serious literature about war and politics.
Jun 18, 2009
The best fiction today
Politically inspired terror and extreme cruelty are mostly premised on fiction but a kind of fiction with no place for pitty and respect. This is a strange story, the wold of a aprawling Empire and its henchmen poised for a war we cannot understand (nor can they1) Gripping, written in the best English prose of present times, it sets off our imagination unbound.
Jan 21, 2008
An important read
One can see why the Nobel Prize for Literature was bestowed on Coetzee?s when they read this novel. Even though this story was written over twenty years ago, the themes and narrative are most salient to today?s society. A flawed protagonist struggles in a ubiquitous empire confronting an equally ubiquitous unknown enemy. His dilemma is Kafkaesque but his actions and emotions give the reader an experience only Coetzee can offer. Concepts of orientalism and the dehumanisation of ?the other? forces the reader to confront their own stance on contemporary issues. It is not a long novel but it is a poignant piece that must be read by anyone who is concerned about the discourse over the supposed ?clash of civilisations? that the world is currently experiencing.
Jun 7, 2007
From New Zealand
This book was ordered for my daughter who was advised that this is a required text for 1st year english university students in Wellington, New Zealand. It is out of print and the availability through libraries is limited. I can only speak to this book in terms of service provided. The book arrived 1 week earlier than advised - which was and still is brilliant. Even though it is obviously 2nd hand, it arrived in good condittion and unmarked. My daughter spoke only briefly - it is a thought provoking story and if she didn't have many friends who have come here from South Africa she may have found it more disturbing. The story is not lengthy, but is powerfully written and obviously well enough written to be suitable as required reading for students of english.
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