Waiting for the Barbarians is written by J.M. Coetzee. He is a famous writer of South Africa. Last year (2003), he got the Nobel Prize of literature. Reading his books is by chance. Because this year some of his books were published in China widely, and I know he is not an ordinary writer, who not only writes some simple life and landscape, his books are all meaningful, which need to be chewed.
I like the Colombia writer Garcia Marquez’s books very much. One Hundred Year of Solitude is my most favorite book. This book has its deep, need us to think it again and again. At first, you might feel very funny, but as the story went on, you will fall into deeply thinking, at last, you will have a strong echo in your heart, you almost cannot help being sad for the hero.
Waiting for the Barbarians gives me the same feeling. The main role of the book is not the everyday hero; in short, you can say he is not the traditional hero. Though in many forms and thought he is strange, yet he is right and stand for justice, at the same time, some parts of him show he is just a useless man, and even rubbish, meanwhile you will very hate him, because he is incapable and despicable. (Sex, I think it is not a very guilty thing in foreign country, at least in South Africa and Colombia, they show me that it just a human normal needing, and won’t be afraid to talk about it) If I use a Chinese thinking method to decide this story, the protagonist is just a normal person, and the writers in China won’t write such a story, because they think Chinese used to super hero, and all the protagonists must be perfect. Whereas I think we need a vivid person not a dream person, a god! The writers in China can’t find out such a race problem, and they don’t want to talk about society in fiction, I think it is a big problem.
From the book, I find a really vivid person. Though he is a very strange and has different kinds of contradiction, all his thought is very different from others (the people are written in that book).
The main ideas of that book show some social problems to us in its special way. Through the curious and pure imagine story, we don’t just see the distorted imagine world, and unthinkable person but we saw another part of our really world and maybe see ourselves or our friends in it. The people are all unimaginable, but it really happens around us. The book as a mirror lets us see our world and ourselves. It’s the power of literature. A story came out are not just for amuse, let people waste their time easily; they must show some problems, but not taking directly punitive action against, instead, in its tactful way.
Waiting for the Barbarians show us the problem of civilization and barbarous. What’s civilization? Who are barbarians? Why need to wait for them? The writer did not give us a certain answer, but after reading, you will be surely holding your belief.
In this story, because of some social problems that people can’t explain, they (the police in the story) make out barbarians. For solving these barbarians’ problems they arrest some innocent herdsmen, put the entire criminal on them and use ferocious methods to punish them. For the social problem hadn’t been solved yet in such wrong way, they have to catch more innocent people to perform their duty perfunctorily. Barbarians became the representative crime. The protagonist is an administrator; because of his strange reaction and useless activity, he became a prisoner, and then suffers terrible and unthinkable torture. At last, annihilate barbarians certainly can’t be succeed. The armies which are used for destroy barbarians because of plenty of nature reasons (nature reasons are all made by themselves, such as desert and can’t find water) fell in great troubles. Nature broke down the unbreakable army instead of the dummy barbarians. This story didn’t have a clear ending, when I read the last sentence, the story still go on in my mind, what the villages’ future and the administrator’s life will be? It’s made me have a very big association. I can’t forget them for a long time; and it make me think about lots of things. The ugly part of the really world, suddenly I know the modern world with terrible crisis. I have responsible to do something for it, at the same time I feel I’m tiny, maybe all the things I could do won’t be impacted anything. I want to change, but I don’t want to become the second protagonist.
The most moving part is the detail description of the terrible beating. They are so real, just like the bloody things happen in front of me. All the wounds are so clear, the causes of them are descripted, and you almost can feel that pain. The way of J.M Coetzee descript of these things are so different from others. He uses the first person, but others usually use the third person, the angle is so different, and it implies me the real feeling of torture. I am even present on the spot, become a part of the story, suffer the pains, I can’t describe in word what feeling I have, but I really feel it.
J.M. Coetzee is so great! The social need such person to let us know the weak point. That’s the really “applications of literature”, let ordinary personnel wake up from sleeping emptiness.