Elizabeth Costello (Wheeler Large Print Compass Series) (英語) ハードカバー – Large Print, 2004/4/1
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Reveals the life of aging Australian novelist Elizabeth Costello through a series of formal addresses that includes an award-acceptance speech at a New England liberal arts college and a lecture on evil in Amsterdam.
Also recommended: Disgrace, The Union Moujik, Boyhood
Ms. Costello gets into trouble because of one lecture when she equates the Holocaust with the modern day slaughter of "innocent" animals. "She had spoken on that occasion on what she saw and still sees as the enslavement of whole animal populations. A slave: a being whose life and death are in the hands of another. What else are cattle, sheep, poultry? The death camps would not have been dreamed up without the example of the meat-processing plants before them." I doubt that many Holocaust survivors would agree with this analogy.
An extremely complex character, Ms. Costello has qualities that are endearing. She makes a most unselfish offer to a dying man for example. Her account of her first encounter with pure evil is moving as well. A humanist, she also discusses with her rigid Catholic sister-- who is a Sister-- why she believes a living Christ makes much more sense than a dying one. She does not have a systematic philosophy. She doesn't have to; she is a mere teller of tales. The final chapter, "At The Gate", is in the tradition of and as good as anything Kafka wrote.
ELIABETH COSTELLO is a strange though beautifully written novel and very different from what Mr. Coetzee usually writes-- or at least those novels of his I have read-- but I found it altogether intriguing. Mr. Coetzee's view of the universe is dark; but, after all, we do live in a world that has produced its share of Hitlers and Stalins and Saddam Husseins.
In this way, Costello's views don't go unchallenged. Also her views, especially comparing the slaughter of animals to the Holocaust, causes great controversy and animosity between her and the community. In another case, she accuses the novelist Paul West of exploiting Nazi evil in his graphic and indulgent portrayals of it resulting in the writing community to accuse her of cencorship. These contentious scenes give her arguments a context and a drama that essays wouldn't have provided.
Vulnerable, fragile at times, not always prepared to answer her detractors, Elizabeth Costello is a very human advocate for her positions and never comes across as a bullying superhuman to mouthpiece Coetzee's philosophy. He's too subtle an artist for that.
I think there is a place for a novel of ideas. Gulliver's Travels and Voltaire certainly were such novels and Elizabeth Costello is worthy of following their lead.