“Waiting for the Barbarians was the Coetzee book that I was always most attached to – I think it’s the Coetzee book that most South Africans are attached to. Coetzee takes the mood of the 1980s state of emergency – when people were being detained and disappearing and there was a fear of communist or black madness on the borders – and he makes it more interesting by creating this partial allegory of some unnamed empire…It’s about a magistrate. He works for the empire, you don’t know what the empire is and you don’t know what century it’s taking place in. The magistrate is trying to administer law and order, he’s trying to be a figure of some kind of justice. And all the time there’s fear that the barbarians are about to invade and take down the empire. All sorts of draconian measures and violations of decency are carried out in the name of emergency. Needless to say, it ends unhappily.” Read more...
The Best South African Fiction