Reading Coetzee’s Youth has gotten me thinking about novels and memoirs, about the writer’s life as the stuff of novels, and about the writer’s tendency to fictionalize his or her own life. Two out of the three most recent literature Nobelists (Naipaul and Coetzee) say they no longer find the writing of fiction at all interesting. Another (Garcia Marquez) publishes a memoir which he confesses to be partially fictional, though doesn’t say which parts. One of the best contemporary novelists (Amis) writes an incandescent memoir, followed by an excrescent work of fiction. Although I’ve always been a fascinated reader of bio and memoir, and in fact tend to prefer the semiautobiographical novel to more purely fictional works, I have to wonder â€” what the hell is going on?
I should note that while I’ve been talking about Coetzee’s book as a memoir, it is classified by the publisher under category 823.914: English Fiction.