For Ceridwen Dovey, J. M. Coetzee ’has always been there, an unseen but strongly felt presence in our small family drama’. As a child, she observed with fascination her mother’s immersion in Coetzee’s writing as she worked on what would become the first critical study of his early novels. Even now, as a writer herself, Ceridwen’s relationship with Coetzee’s books is still mediated by her mother’s readings of them: to get to him, she must first step through her mother’s formidable mind.
With tenderness and insight, Dovey draws on this personal history to explore the Nobel Prize winner’s work – how his books ’do theory’ on themselves – while also tracing the intellectual heritage that has been passed from mother to daughter.
In the Writers on Writers series, leading writers reflect on another Australian writer who has inspired and fascinated them. Provocative, crisp and written from a practitioner’s perspective, the series starts a fresh conversation between past and present, writer and listener. It sheds light on the craft of writing and introduces some intriguing and talented authors and their work.