J. M. Coetzee

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J.M. Coetzee
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J.M. Coetzee

John Maxwell Coetzee (pronounced "coot-SEE-uh") (born February 9, 1940) is a South African author. On 2 October 2003, it was announced that he was to be the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the fourth African writer to be so honoured. The prize was awarded in Stockholm on 10 December.

He was born in Cape Town, as John Michael Coetzee (he later changed his middle name), and his formative years were spent between that city and the Western Cape town of Worcester. He studied at the University of Cape Town, where he took degrees in mathematics and English.

In the early 1960s he relocated to London, England, where he worked for a time as a computer programmer; his experiences there were later chronicled in Youth (2002). He then moved on to postgraduate studies in literature in the USA at the University of Texas, completing a dissertation that applied computerized stylistic analysis to the works of Samuel Beckett. After Texas he taught English and literature at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) until 1971.

In 1971 sought permanent residence in the United States, but was denied. He then returned to South Africa to a professorship in English Literature at the University of Cape Town. Upon retirement in 2002, he relocated to Adelaide, Australia, where he was made an honorary research fellow at the English department of the University of Adelaide. He also serves as professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

He was the first author to be awarded the Booker Prize on two occasions: for The Life and Times of Michael K in 1983, and for Disgrace in 1999; because of a desire to avoid the associated publicity, however, he did not appear to collect his prizes. In addition to his novels, he has also published critical works and translations.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003, praised for "in innumerable guises [portraying] the involvement of the outsider." The press release for the award cited his "well-crafted composition, pregnant dialogue, and analytical brilliance," while focusing on the moral nature of his work.

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