Scenes from Provincial Life brings together, in one volume, J.M. Coetzee’s majestic trilogy of fictionalised memoir, Boyhood, Youth and Summertime
It opens in a small town in the South Africa of the 1940s. We meet a young boy who, at home, is ill at ease with his father and stifled by his mother’s unconditional love. At school he passes every test that is set for him, but he remains wary of his fellow pupils. Later, as a student of mathematics in Cape Town he prepares to escape to Europe and turn himself into an artist. Once in London, however, the reality is dispiriting. Decades on, an English biographer researches a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. As he interviews important figures in Coetzee’s life, a portrait emerges of an awkward outsider who – even after death – remains dogged by rumours.