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Oct. 2, 2003 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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John M. Coetzee of the University of Chicago receives 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature

    Additional Contact:
Bill Harms


John Coetzee

Additional Links:
Coetzee appointed Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought

BBC: Coetzee wins Nobel literature prize

Coetzee on SVT, Swedish Television

Independent London: Mr Coetzee is run to earth through cyberspace

Nobel Laureates at the University of Chicago

Cultures of Creativity: The Centennial Exhibition of the Nobel Prize opens October 6 at the Museum of Science and Industry

Statements from colleagues of John M. Coetzee


Statement from John M. Coetzee

John M. Coetzee, Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, has received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was cited for his work which "in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider." He has taught at Chicago since 1996 and been a professor here since 2001.

A scholar of literature who has written on the language, ethics and politics of figures ranging from Erasmus to Tolstoy and Kafka, Coetzee is best known for having twice won the Booker prize, Britain's highest honor for fiction. Both his fiction and nonfiction have provided insights into the problems of violence, censorship, and how people treat those different from themselves. Among Coetzee's academic writings are Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship, The Lives of Animals, and White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa. Among his recent literary writings are Disgrace and Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II.

Educated at the University of Cape Town, where he earned B.A.s with honors in English (1960) and Mathematics (1961), Coetzee was awarded an M.A. in English there in 1963. After travel to Britain, he completed Ph.D. work in English at the University of Texas, Austin in 1969. Coetzee has taught at the State University of New York and the University of Cape Town, as well as Harvard and Johns Hopkins. Coetzee has also been awarded the Jerusalem Prize, the Commonwealth Literary Award, and the rank of Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in the Royal Society of Literature.

We currently do not expect Coetzee to be available for interviews but have arranged for colleagues to speak about him. Please see the statement from John M. Coetzee or contact Bill Harms or Seth Sanders for information.

Statements from colleagues of John M. Coetzee:
Wayne Booth, George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English:
"Having read almost all of Coetzee's work I can honestly say that if I had been on the Nobel Prize Committee, he would have received it earlier. This enthusiasm springs from the ways in which he imagines himself sympathetically into characters of so many diverse kinds."

Jonathan Lear, John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought:
"John Coetzee is one of the great writers of our times, but he is also one of the world's great teachers. In the tradition of the exemplar, and the witness, he teaches us all what is really involved in reading a great book. He has taught me to look with greater clarity at the human soul, and his remarks in and out of class are lifetime memories, reverberating away."

Nathan Tarcov, Professor and Chair, Committee on Social Thought:
John Coetzee has been an invaluable colleague on the Committee on Social Thought the past seven years. He has taught a wide-range of courses on such subjects as realism in the novel, autobiography, Tolstoy's War and Peace, Proust's In Search of Lost Time, and Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. Exemplifying the collegiality and interdisciplinarity we aspire to, he has frequently co-taught with other faculty on the Committee, This quarter, for example, he is teaching a course on Whitman with Mark Strand and one on Plato's Phaedrus with Jonathan Lear. He is admired by the students not only for his insight into works of literature but for his conscientious dedication to their education. He has participated actively in the composition and evaluation of our students' Fundamental Examinations on major texts, even emailing his characteristically thoughtful and detailed evaluations from the far corners of the earth in those quarters when he is not in residence. All the faculty and students of the Committee on Social Thought are thrilled at his newest honor.
Last modified at 10:45 AM CST on Wednesday, October 15, 2003.

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