Schooldays of Jesus, by J.M. Coetzee, sequel to The Childhood of Jesus, though able to be read as a stand-alone, is a sweeping and opaque work, perforated with allegories and uncertainty. It follows a seven year old boy named David, along with his adoptive parents Simón and Inés, as they struggle to find a stable family dynamic whilst exploring their new identities in the town of Estrella. The story revolves around David’s enrollment at the Academy of Dance, where he learns to “call down the numbers,” all the while becoming closer to his haughty instructor, and growing ever-more distant from his parents. On his journey, David will experience a cruel and harsh side of adults, struggling to find a balance between reality and passion.
To be quite clear, my summary does this book no justice. It is impossible to aptly describe Coetzee’s deceptively simple style that manages, despite all odds, to convey essential and all encompassing truths about the world and human nature. One should note that the storyline is not what drives the work. Coetzee uses his characters as tools with which to explore various philosophical and ethical themes, including the definition of mathematics, how to prove the existence of an object, and the question of whether or not reason and passion are mutually exclusive. Reminiscent of a Socratic seminar, this book is dialogue driven, the author quite evidently unconcerned with measly ideas such as plot.
The Schooldays of Jesus is certainly not for everyone--reading it made me feel like I was back in seventh grade, plodding through Sophie’s World--but those that do choose to read it will be gifted with an eye-opening and satisfiably puzzling experience.
-Keiko, (Dusen)Berry Blogger