Here, for the first time in one volume, is J. M. Coetzee's majestic trilogy of fictionalised memoir, Boyhood, Youth and Summertime
Scenes from Provincial Life opens in a small town in the South Africa of the 1940s. We meet a young boy who, at home, is ill at ease with his father and stifled by his mother's unconditional love. At school he passes every test that is set for him, but he remains wary of his fellow pupils, especially the rough Afrikaners.
As a student of mathematics in Cape Town he readies himself to escape his homeland, travel to Europe and turn himself into an artist. Once in London, however, the reality is dispiriting: he toils as a computer programmer, inhabits a series of damp, dreary flats and is haunted by loneliness and boredom. He is a constitutional outsider. He fails to write.
Decades later, an English biographer researches a book about the late John Coetzee, particularly the period following his return to South Africa from America. Interviewees describe an awkward man still living with his father, a man who insists on performing dull manual labour. His family regard him with suspicion and he is dogged by rumours: that he crossed the authorities in America, that he writes poetry.
Scenes from Provincial Life is a heartbreaking and often very funny portrait of the artist by one of the world's greatest writers.