Vol. 1, Issue 6 (2014)
Divine Idiocy streaked with Gandhism as an alternative to Racism in J.M. Coetzee's novel Life and Times of Michael K
Author(s): Kamlesh Thakur
Abstract: Coetzee wrote this award-winning novel just before Late Dr. Nelson Mandela was crowned the first Black President of South Africa -- a nation torn apart by apartheid. The success story of Dr. Mandela has been repeated by Barack Obama in the United States, yet racist attacks make headlines every now and then in the developed world where the Whites bask in the glory of their superior race. The book under study not only paints a realistic picture of a war ravaged country being gnawed by racism but also offers a solution to it by celebrating idiocy over worldly-wisdom. Michael K, a grotesque -looking, hare-lipped man gives up his job as a gardener in Cape Town to carry his ailing mother away from the violent city to the countryside of her childhood, i.e. Prince Albert. The mother dies on the way but he manages to reach Prince Albert and starts his life afresh as a cultivator by sprinkling his mother's ashes on the earth. After that he is twice imprisoned, but his captors, who have power and cynicism on their side, are bewildered by the simplicity of this man, who, in life, seems to want nothing. He becomes an enigmatic figure for the worldly-wise. He is prepared to die rather than betray his instincts. He stands by his principles and attains a level of freedom, significantly in a country torn with strife that no ordinary human being can hope to attain. The civil war serves as the backdrop against which Michael spends a whole year. The unnamed authorities in the book are ever- watchful but uncaring, demanding loyalty from the common people but neglecting their safety. When Coetzee wrote this book, it was impossible to imagine a peaceful, democratic end to the apartheid in South Africa.