Biographies of Famous South Africans
Special South Africans


Those who have inspired us. Those who have defined us.
Those who have shown us our common humanity.

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John Maxwell (Michael) Coetzee
Award-winning Author
9 February 1940 - ?

JM CoetzeeJohn Michael Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He studied first at Cape Town, and later earned a Ph.D. degree in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. He returned to South Africa and joined the faculty of the University of Cape Town in 1972. 

His first novel, actually two novellas, "Dusklands", which examined the parallels between Americans in Vietnam and the early Dutch settlers in South Africa, was published in 1974. "Waiting for the Barbarians" (1980), the story of a government magistrate's personal evolution into questioning the government for which he works, won South Africa's highest literary honour, the Central News Agency (CNA) Literary Award, in 1980. 

He won the premier British award, the Booker Prize, for the first time in 1983, for the "Life and Times of Michael K". In the same year he was appointed Professor of General Literature at the University of Cape Town. 

On October 25th 1999, Coetzee became the first author to win the prestigious Booker award twice in its 31-year history, for his novel, "Disgrace".
Though Coetzee’s ambitious body of work resists easy characterization, much of is staged in a pre- and post-apartheid South Africa as it might have been reimagined by Kafka: a universal setting that says as much about present-day America as it does about Coetzee’s native land. In 2003 he achieved the ultimate accolade when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

J M Coetzee lives today in Australia. He has published seven other novels, a memoir "Boyhood: Scenes From Provincial Life", and several essay collections. He has won many other literary prizes include the Lannan Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. The Sunday Times wrote:

"He is an artist of a weight and depth that put him beyond ordinary comparisons."


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