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J.M. Coetzee rails against censorship

books Updated: Apr 12, 2013 12:05 IST

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South African-born Nobel literature laureate J.M. Coetzee offered an impassioned critique of censorship during a seminar at the Universidad Central de Bogota.

Drawing from the themes of his 1996 book, "Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship", the famously reticent 73-year-old author recounted personal experiences with censorship in apartheid South Africa.

Though his novels "In the Heart of the Country" (1977), "Waiting for the Barbarians" (1980) and "Life & Times of Michael K" (1983) were all critical of apartheid, government censors left them untouched because he was a white, middle-class intellectual who did not write "for mass consumption", Coetzee said.

The writer recounted how he came to learn that some of the members of the "anonymous committee of censors" were respected intellectuals and personal acquaintances of his.

Once dubbed "the writer of writers" by the late Carlos Fuentes and hailed as "one of the best living novelists" by fellow Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, Coetzee has imbued his fiction with a symbolic, sometimes allegorical, style that questions all forms of racism and subjugation.

The seminar, Three Days with J.M. Coetzee, ended in the author's receiving an honorary doctorate from Universidad Central.