South African novelist, essayist, linguist, translator and recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. In 2013, Richard Poplak of the Daily Maverick described Coetzee as "inarguably the most celebrated and decorated living English-language author". In addition to the Nobel, Coetzee has been awarded the Jerusalem Prize, CNA Prize (thrice), the Prix Femina Étranger, The Irish Times International Fiction Prize and the Booker Prize (twice), among other accolades.
In 1968, he began teaching English literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo where he stayed until 1971. It was at Buffalo that he began his first novel, Dusklands. From as early as 1968 he sought permanent residence in the United States, a process that was finally unsuccessful, in part due to his involvement in anti-Vietnam-War protests.
Mr. Coetzee's best-known novels are Waiting for the Barbarians; Life and Times of Michael K, which won the Booker Prize in Britain in 1983; The Master of Petersburg; and Disgrace, which received the Booker Prize in 1999, making Mr. Coetzee the first writer to win it twice. He has also published books of essays and two memoirs, Boyhood and Youth.
The trauma of apartheid haunts his novels, even when they appear to be set in a country other than South Africa. Mr. Coetzee turns an existentialist spotlight on individual behavior. "At the decisive moment Coetzee's characters stand behind themselves, motionless, incapable of taking part in their own actions," the Swedish Academy noted. "But passivity is not merely the dark haze that devours personality; it is also the last resort open to human beings as they defy an oppressive order by rendering themselves inaccessible to its intentions."