On Not Yet Being Christian: J.M. Coetzee's Slow Man and the Ethics of Being (Un)Interesting

Craig Mitchell Smith


Since its publication, J.M. Coetzee's Slow Man has been received unenthusiastically. Its relative neglect suggests its failure to interest its readers as either a narrative to be read for the plot or as a text to be analyzed according to the prevailing values guiding contemporary literary criticism. Anticipating its own reception, Slow Man asks readers to consider the meaning of the novel’s failure to interest us greatly. Focussing self-consciously on an uninteresting character living in unremarkable times, Coetzee’s novel eschews a critical paradigm that invests in political urgency to make the ethical point that there are alternative values for judging the worth of a novel or character. In its search for affirmative values, Slow Man responds to the dilemmas of postcolonial postsecularism by suggesting that there are worse things a novelist might do than write an uninteresting book.


Coetzee; fictional ethics; postsecularism; narratology

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