"Waiting for the Barbarians" by J.M. Coetzee.

Essay by houston82College, Undergraduate April 2003

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Waiting for the Barbarians

This novel was good because it was painfully realistic. The suffering of one people because of the domination of others can be seen all over the world. The book by Coetzee captures this domination and struggle very well. Once I started this novel I couldn't put it down. Coetzee's prose was excellent.

It was hard for me at first to relate or sympathize with the main character because even though he had sympathy for oppressed, he was a part of the oppressors. His sexual relationships were based on the fact of him being in a dominant position in the outpost. I think because he was such well drawn character and I was able to see him with such conflict I was able to start sympathizing with him. And, of course, he does choose the right path in the end, however, painful it is...this time for him.

The cruelty of Joll is what really made me cringe when I read this book. The idea of torture has always been something that sickened me, so reading a novel that deals directly with it was sometimes hard. The father daughter scene was extremely painful to contemplate, as was the protagonist's.

I felt joy in myself when I heard the "barbarians" had outsmarted the true barbarians by leading them out into the wilderness where they ran out of supplies . I thought this was a great novel, and I look forward to reading the next novel by Coetzee.