80th birthday celebration to honour Nobel Prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee

J.M. Coetzee

Professor J.M. Coetzee

The University of Adelaide will proudly honour the life and work of distinguished author J.M. Coetzee in a ceremony to celebrate his 80th birthday.

On Monday 9 November, the University will host a public celebration at Elder Hall, with readings and musical performances. At the ceremony, Professor Coetzee will read from his work.

Members of the public are invited to attend the celebration. Tickets to this event are free but online bookings are essential. The event will also be livestreamed: adelaide.edu.au/live

John Maxwell (J.M.) Coetzee is one of the most lauded of living writers. A novelist, literary critic and translator, he has won the Booker prize twice (for Life & Times of Michael K in 1983 and for Disgrace in 1999), and in 2003 received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is currently Professor of Literature in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.

“Coetzee’s work has expanded the possibilities of literature in our time.” Professor Nicholas Jose

Professor Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa on 9 February 1940, the elder of two children. His mother, Vera Wehmeyer Coetzee, was a primary school teacher and his father, Zacharias, a solicitor who served with the South African forces in North Africa and Italy from 1941 to 1945. He attended the Marist Brothers College in Cape Town, completing his high school education in 1956. Thereafter he graduated from the University of Cape Town with honours degrees in English and mathematics. In 1968 he received his PhD in English, linguistics and Germanic languages from the University of Texas at Austin. His dissertation was on the fiction of Samuel Beckett.

In 1969 Professor Coetzee began to write novels, of which he would eventually publish over a dozen. In addition to his fiction, he has published memoirs, essays, and a study of literary censorship. He is also a translator of Dutch and Afrikaans literary works.

After teaching in the Department of English at the State University of New York from 1968 to 1971, Professor Coetzee returned to South Africa in 1972, where he held a series of positions at the University of Cape Town until his retirement in 2000. He has also held visiting professorships at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago, where between 1995 and 2003 he was Distinguished Professor of Social Thought.

For his services to literature he has been honoured with knighthoods by the governments of France and the Netherlands. He is the recipient of honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, South Africa, France, Poland, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.

In 2002 Professor Coetzee emigrated to South Australia where he lives with his partner, Professor Dorothy Driver. In 2012 the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice was established at the University of Adelaide, where he is a distinguished member of the University community.

“Coetzee’s work has expanded the possibilities of literature in our time,” says Professor Nicholas Jose, Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide. “He is like no other writer in asking the most complex questions and then finding answers in the simplest things.”

To attend the event: please book online.

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