Saturday, August 25, 2007

Youth 3

"On the basis of the poems he has heard on the radio and nothing else, he knows Brodsky, knows hims through and through. This is what poetry is capable of. Poetry is truth. But of him in London Brodsky can know nothing. How to tell the frozen man he is with him, side by side, day by day?"

I love the image of the young Coetzee listening to the BBC in the early sixties and discovering Brodsky's poetry. Who was broadcasting the one future Nobel Prize winner's work so that another future Nobel Prize winner could hear it? — Note, though, that when Youth was published, JMC had not yet won his.

Even here, though, JMC manages to mock his young self a bit: at least I read him as gently poking fun at his youthful passion for Brodsky's work, with his sense of identification with "the frozen man" (at the time, Brodsky was in Archangel, serving five years hard labor). "Poetry is truth": it's hard for me to believe that JMC believes that now (and easy for me to believe that he believed it then).

No comments: