J.M. Coetzee has new things to say about this relation between the 'real' and 'fictions of the real', and while much has already been written about him, these questions need to be more fully explored. The contributions to this volume are drawn together by the idea of the hinge between the world (whether understood in ontological, bio-ethical, personal and interpersonal, or socio-political terms) and fictional representations of it (whether understood in epistemological, ficto-biographical, formal, or stylistic terms).
In this collection, the question of understanding itself - how we understand or imagine our place in the world - is shown to be central to our conception of that world. That is, rather than beginning with forms developed in socio-political understandings, Coetzee's works ask us to consider what role fiction might play in relation to politics, in relation to history, in relation to ethics and our understanding of human agency and responsibility. Coetzee has a profound interest in the methods through which we make sense of the contemporary world and our place in it, and his approach appeals to readers of fiction, critics and philosophers alike. The central problems he deals with in his fiction are of the kind that confront people everywhere and so involve a "translatability" that allow the works to maintain relevance across cultures. Added to this, though, his fiction makes us question the nature of understanding itself. This book was originally published as a special issue of Textual Practice.
Anthony Uhlmann is Director of the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University, Australia. He is the author of Samuel Beckett and the Philosophical Image (2006), Beckett and Poststructuralism (2008), and Thinking in Literature: Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov (2011). He is currently completing a book on J. M. Coetzee.