I do not know what it is, but every book I have read by J. M. Coetzee has been really good. He is writer I seemed destined to be uninterested by. One with too many critics and scholars supporting him, and having won the Nobel Prize in a time where the award is given more for social and political work instead of fictional prowess, he has all the markings of someone whose books are meant for college English classes and not for fun yet challenging books. I am glad to not only say that I am a fan of this great writer having read three books that are downright fantastic, but that all the awards and recognition Mr. Coetzee gets are well deserved, because, as I said in my review of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, he is one of (in my very, very humble opinion) the two best writers of fiction still alive. It pains me to say that, because nothing grinds my gears than insincere, annoying as hell literary hyperbole (which as an English major in English classes with other English majors, I hear too damn much of) I really believe it to be true. No other two writers can bring together literary snobs and your everyday lover of fiction to like the same book. And I have to give a little bit more credit to Coetzee, because he is working within narrative frameworks that aren’t have as interesting as Murakmai’s. There are no talking sheep, no man skinners and for sure no nefarious beings posing as Johnny Walker or Colonel Sanders. It is just brutal harsh realism in Coetzee’s novels, and he has found a way to turn these realistic events that we have seen depicted the same way over and over again, and turn them into thrilling set pieces filled to the brim with humanity. In this novel, Waiting for the Barbarians, we meet the Magistrate of a small frontier settlement, that is being besieged upon by the implied threat of the savage tribes around the land, as well as the real threat of the large and invasive empire, represented by the chilling Colonel Joll (whose described first by his sunglasses, in perhaps Coetzee’s best sentence). Eventually, the Magistrate falls for a savage girl, and in an attempt to save her, becomes and enemy to the empire, and loses his dignity in the process. It is a story we have heard before, but with Coetzee’s ability to turn his eloquent prose into something that keeps me turning the page, it becomes some thing of a new experience, with his many nuanced descriptions of people speaking louder than dialogue. I am all for story over prose, but sometimes it is just too good to not fall in love with. His abilities at telling a story seem to be overshadowed by his subject matter (even Coetzee himself might frown on the idea), but it is there, and it is kept me reading through three memorable books, and I hope to keep going forward with this true living master.