Friday, October 03, 2003

It turns out new Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee is a sometime professor at the University of Chicago, which is why Robin reports unexplained sightings of him around campus. The U of C press release confirms his misanthropy: "We currently do not expect Coetzee to be available for interviews but have arranged for colleagues to speak about him."

The university did issue a statement from Coetzee, which is even less revealing:

"I received the news in a phone call from Stockholm at 6 this morning. It came as a complete surprise-I was not even aware that the announcement was pending. I am particularly happy that the announcement has come during this autumn quarter, which is the time of year that I spend at the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago, and in particular the Committee on Social Thought, has been my intellectual home for the past seven years. Saul Bellow, my literary predecessor on the Committee, won the prize in 1976. This year I am teaching two courses with colleagues here-a course on Plato with the philosopher Jonathan Lear, and a course on Walt Whitman with the poet Mark Strand. And I am of course continuing with my own work. I am working on new fiction, and I have a book of translations of Dutch poets due out shortly."

I imagine his class enrollment numbers will be up a bit.

When Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize, Harvard kicked him upstairs by creating something called the "Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence," which meant he no longer had to teach, just be.

The Trib article about Coetzee is godawful, obviously mostly cribbed off the Web. I think saying a book is a "timeless fable of the human condition" is now a federal offense.

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