J.M. Coetzee Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


J.M. Coetzee

Birthday :

February 9, 1940

Birth Place :

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Zodiac Sign :


Chinese Zodiac :


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John Maxwell Coetzee is a South African novelist, translator, essayist, and linguist. Born on February 9, 1940, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. Coetzee is best known for his work on the effect of colonization, especially on the African continent. His works include Dusklands, 1974, The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee, 1977, and In Age of Iron (1990). He is a three-time winner of South Africa’s CNA Prize and two-time Booker Prize winner, among others but he is the reclusive type who never took his awards in person.

Early Life

John Maxwell Coetzee was born on February 9, 1940, in Cape Town, South Africa to Afrikaner parents Zacharias Coetzee and Vera Coetzee. His father was an occasional attorney and a government employee, and his mother a schoolteacher. Though his parents spoke English, he preferred speaking Afrikaans with other family members. He attended St. Joseph’s College in Cape Town, Rondebosch.

At the age of eight, his father lost his job and therefore moved the family to Worcester, spending most of his childhood life in Cape Town and Worcester. He enrolled in the University of Cape Town graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1960 and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics in 1961. He had his Master’s degree in the University of Cape Town for “The Works of Ford Madox” novel (1963).

In 1969, J.M. Coetzee received his doctorate in University of Texas, the United States on the Fulbright Program. He unsuccessfully tried to obtain a permanent stay in the United States, partly because of his involvement in a protest against the Vietnam War. He was one of the 45 faculty members arrested for trespass for occupying the State University of New York’s Hayes Hall in March 1970. The case was dropped in 1971.



J.M. Coetzee taught English literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1968 to 1971. He had previously worked, as a computer programmer for IBM and International Computers and Tabulator (ICT) in Bracknell in the United Kingdom in 1962. He later returned to South Africa as an English literature lecturer at the University of Cape Town.

In 1983, he was promoted as professor of General Literature and later became a Distinguished Professor of Literature (199-2001). He moved to Australia where he became an honorary research fellow at the University of Adelaide’s English Department. His partner, Dorothy Driver, was also a professor at the University.



J.M. Coetzee made a debut with the book, Duskland in 1974. The book explored issues relating to colonization in the two novellas The Vietnam Project and The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee. He followed it with In the Heart of the Country, in 1977 also published as From the Heart of the Country and in 1980 published the Barbarians. His work Life & Times of Michael K, 1983, received the Booker Prize, while Foe in 1986, explored themes on the colonizer and the colonised.

In 1990, Coetzee published Age of Iron and followed it with The Master of Petersburg in 1994. His works include Elizabeth Costello (2003), Coetzee’s Slow Man (2005), Diary of a Bad Year (2007) and The Childhood of Jesus (2013).

J.M. Coetzee's nonfiction works include White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa (1988); Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews (1992); Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship (1996); and the autobiographic trilogy Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life (1997), Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II (2002), and Summertime (2009).

Others are Here and Now: Letters 2008–2011 (2013), The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction, and Psychotherapy in 2015 co-written by Arabella Kurtz.


Personal life

J.M. Coetzee's first marriage was with Philippa Jubber for seventeen years (1963 – 1980). The couple had two children, Nicolas (1966-1989) and Gisela (1968). In 1989, Nicholas died in an accident at age 23. Coetzee retired in 2002 and relocated to Adelaide, Australia obtaining his Australian citizenship in 2006.



J.M. Coetzee was the fourth African writer and the second South African writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature Award (2003) in Stockholm. He was also the first writer to be awarded the Booker Prize twice for his two novels, “Life & Times of Michael K (1983) and Disgrace (1999). He also won the French Prix Feminaétranger, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, a three-time winner of South Africa’s CNA Prize.

The South African government awarded him the Order of Mapungubwe (gold class) for his exceptional contribution in the field of literature and elevating South Africa on the World stage (2005).

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