Waiting for the Barbarians: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series)

Waiting for the Barbarians: A Novel (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series)

J. M. Coetzee

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 0143116924

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


J.M. Coetzee's latest book co-written with Arabella Kurtz, The Good Story, is now available from Viking Books

A modern classic by Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee

Waiting for the Barbarians centers on the crisis of the conscience of the Magistrate—a loyal servant of the Empire working in a tiny frontier town, doing his best to ignore an inevitable war with the "barbarians." After he witnesses the cruel and unjust treatment of prisoners of war, he reconsiders his role in the regime and carries out a quixotic act of rebellion.

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I could see only around the edges. It is difficult to explain. "But now it is getting better. The left eye is getting better. That is all." I take her face between my hands and stare into the dead centres of her eyes, from which twin reflections of myself stare solemnly back. "And this?" I say, touching the worm-like sear in the corner. "That is nothing. That is where the iron touched me. It made a little burn. It is not sore." She pushes my hands away. "What do you feel towards the men who

border settlements are the first line of defence of the Empire. The sooner the barbarians understand that the better." Despite his engaging air there is a rigidity to his thought that must derive from his military education. I sigh. I have achieved nothing by letting myself go. His worst suspicion is no doubt confirmed: that I am unsound as well as old-fashioned. And do I really after all believe what I have been saying? Do I really look forward to the triumph of the barbarian way: intellectual

from imagining it is my throat they cut, my bowels they tear out, my bones they crack. Perhaps they will be friendlier afterwards. I think with yearning of the familiar routine of my duties, of the approaching summer, the long dreamy siestas, conversations with friends at dusk under the walnut trees, with boys bringing tea and lemonade and the eligible girls in twos and threes promenading before us on the square in their finery. Only days since I parted from that other one, and I find her face

considerations than those of decency. They exposed her father to her naked and made him gibber with pain; they hurt her and he could not stop them (on a day I spent occupied with the ledgers in my office). Thereafter she was no longer fully human, sister to all of us. Certain sympathies died, certain movements of the heart became no longer possible to her. I too, if I live long enough in this cell with its ghosts not only of the father and the daughter but of the man who even by lamplight did not

lake every year in their migrations and about native ways of trapping them. I suggest that I take him out fishing by night in a native boat. "That is an experience not to be missed," I say; "the fishermen carry flaming torches and beat drums over the water to drive the fish towards the nets they have laid." He nods. He tells me about a visit he paid elsewhere on the frontier where people eat certain snakes as a delicacy, and about a huge antelope he shot. He picks his way uncertainly among the

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