Saturday, 26 September 2015

In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee

A short novel of 266  numbered  paragraphs (151 pages), written  by Nobel Prize Winner J.M.Coetzee in 1977 as his second book  leaves its impact  despite its darkness.It is a story based in colonial South Africa  and  is narrated by a lonely , African white spinster Magda . "Yes; but to you  am I only the miss?Have I no name of my own?"
"Miss Magda?"
"Yes;or just plain Magda."
                               Hendrik is the black  farm hand  and a helper  to her widower father, who is a sheep farmer .Hendrik has found a wife Anna  , because man was not made to live alone.Her  father , who hates only  because he dare not love.He decides to keep Anna as his  concubine ." He believes that he and she can choose  their words and make a private language ,with an I and You and here and now of their own.Bur there can be no private language .Their intimate You is my You too."  Magda cannot tolerate  this relationship  and kills her father.With the help of Hendrik , she buries the dead body in  a place nearby the farm .In perseverance lies our strength.
               After the death of her father, Hendrik rapes Magda .After the rape , due to her loneliness and  her  desire  for sex(Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.Anatomy is destiny.Or perhaps ,I never had animal integrity.)and craving for  love(She needs to be needed."In knowing him better I seem to have lost all that I liked best in him"),with a fear that is also an expectancy, Magda begins to have  sex with Hendrik every night   , in the heart of the country . She begins to question the notions of race and slavery"I am not simply one of the whites,I am I! I am I, not a people." Are you waiting for me to become your white slave?
                                                One day , the  farmers from neighbouring farms  visit  Magda's  farmhouse .Hendrik and his wife Anna , run away , fearing that they might be punished for the killing of  Magda's father, being black and poor.The rest is the story of how Magda deals with her loneliness(My purgatory of solitude."I need people to talk to,I need a history and a culture , I need a moral sense and a teleology  before I will be happy , not to mention food or drink")  ,
(page 128).Slaves lose everything in their chains,I recognise,even joy in escaping from them.  .
        She starts keeping a journal ,like a good castaway.To explain is to forgive , to be explained is to be forgiven.Certain things seem to be forever irrecoverable.Perhaps that proves the reality of the past.
"When one truly means what one says, when one speaks not in shouts of panic, but quietly, deliberately , decisively, then one is understood and obeyed."(page 74)."The innocent victim  can only know  evil in the form of suffering.When evil is known as evil,innocence is destroyed"(page 141).I will die before I get to the truth.I want the truth, certainly , but I want finality even more!
                        The novel has a unique and rare blend  of   intensity  of emotion  and precision   of   language .I recommend you to read this short novel  from a master story teller ,J.M. Coetzee.