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Nobel Prize-Winning Author Coetzee Speaks at UAlbany, Oct. 12

New York State Writers Institute Hosts Rare Public Appearance by South African Novelist, in Conversation with American Author Paul Auster

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 5, 2012) -- In a rare public appearance, Nobel Prize-winning South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, a giant of world literature, will engage in conversation with major American novelist Paul Auster about their friendship and soon-to-be-published body of personal letters. The event, hosted by the New York State Writers Institute, will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 12, in the main theatre of the University at Albany's Performing Arts Center. The talk, which is free and open to the public, occurs in conjunction with UAlbany's Fallbany/Homecoming weekend.

The correspondence began in 2008 when Auster sent a letter proposing an ongoing dialogue on any subject -- "Let’s strike sparks off each other," he said. The correspondence has since grown into a collaborative meditation on friendship, childhood, marriage, art, politics, unfavorable literary reviews, travel, immigration, sports, translation, bigotry, South Africa, Israel, Palestine, insomnia and Franz Kafka, among other subjects. The collection will be published first in Dutch in 2012, and subsequently in English as Here and Now (2013).

South African author and nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee
South African author and Nobel Prize Winner J.M. Coetzee will speak at UAlbany on Oct. 12, as part of UAlbany's Fallbany/Homecoming weekend of activities.

Born in Cape Town to Afrikaner parents, Coetzee pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, and went on to teach for three years in the English Department of SUNY Buffalo (1968-1971), where he began his first novel, Dusklands (1974). He is the first author to win the Booker Prize twice, and has written a number of novels regarded as classics of contemporary world literature, including In the Heart of the Country (1977), Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), Life & Times of Michael K (1983, winner of the Booker Prize), The Master of Petersburg (1994), Disgrace (1999, winner of the Booker Prize), Elizabeth Costello (2003), Slow Man (2005), and Summertime (2009). His work explores the agony of Apartheid and its aftermath, the nature of power, gender relations, personal cruelty, censorship, and animal rights.

Written as a fictional biographer's investigations of the life of the "late" author John Coetzee, and a sequel to his fictionalized autobiographies, Boyhood (1997) and Youth (2002), Summertime earned Coetzee his third "shortlist" nomination for the Booker Prize.

The Irish Times reviewer said, "This is the third installment of a life so reserved, so repressed, so seething with polite rage and restrained despair that it could only be approached through a third-person voice... it is wonderful stuff. But then, Coetzee is wonderful: edgy, black, remorselessly human, witty, and often outright funny... Summertime is offbeat and deliberate, elusive and truthful."

Coetzee’s 1999 novel Disgrace, about a disgraced South African college professor and his lesbian daughter, was adapted as a 2008 motion picture starring John Malkovich.

Famously private, Coetzee rarely gives public appearances even in his native South Africa and adopted home country of Australia. He has appeared only once before with Paul Auster in connection with the forthcoming collection of correspondence -- at the Kingston WritersFest in Kingston, Ontario, in September 2011, a ticketed event that attracted a sell-out crowd of more than 700 people. Unlike the Canadian event, the Albany event is free and open to the public.

Paul Auster, renowned for dark, intellectual meta-mystery fiction, regularly participates in the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. His acclaimed, bestselling novels include Sunset Park (2010), Oracle Nights (2003), The Book of Illusions (2002), The Music of Chance (1990), and The New York Trilogy (1987). His most recent book is Winter Journal (2012), a reflection on life and death and the events that shook and shaped him. Elissa Schappell, writing in Vanity Fair, called it, "an intimate symphony of selves, a song of the body for all seasons."

Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the authors will discuss Herman Melville's classic short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener," in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center on the uptown campus.

Both events are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, the UAlbany Departments of Africana Studies; English; History; Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Philosophy; Political Science; Women’s Studies; Institute for Research on Women; College of Arts & Sciences; Honors College; Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy; Offices of the President, Provost, and Vice President for Research; Alumni Association; and Student Association.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620.

Learn more about Fallbany or Homecoming weekend.

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