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Abstract

Although Coetzee very rarely mentions Conrad, both authors have much in common. As external and internal exiles, both were expected in their fiction to spell out their cultural and/or political affiliations. The two novels on which this chapter focuses, Under Western Eyes (1911) and The Master of Petersburg (1994), show, however, that this is not an expectation that either Conrad or Coetzee were to fulfil straightforwardly. Under Western Eyes and The Master of Petersburg are both political novels dealing with Russia, revolutionary and anarchist movements, with social, political, cultural and historical affiliations, as well as problematic filiations. Their respective publications revived arguments about their authors’ cultural and political affiliations. In the “Author’s Note” to Under Western Eyes, Conrad professes “scrupulous impartiality” and “detachment” from the subject of Russia. This clearly disingenuous statement only thinly hides the painful confrontation with the shadow of his father and with his avowed detestation of Dostoevsky, with whom he nevertheless creatively engages in this novel. Coetzee’s novel centres on the figure of Dostoevsky and on events leading to the writing of The Possessed. With this novel, his first since the end of Apartheid, Coetzee appeared to be turning his back on South Africa precisely when some kind of response to South Africa’s fresh beginnings was expected of him. These two novels are also metafictional novels foregrounding the creative process, the writing and reading of fiction. The point of this chapter, therefore, is not to argue that Conrad was a source of inspiration that Coetzee, for whatever reason, seems to be willing to hide. It is rather to analyse how, by displacing the representation of political debates onto creative issues, both Conrad and Coetzee defend fiction against superficial links between representations and affiliations.

In: Conrad’s Presence in Contemporary Culture
The anthology consists of essays authored by scholars of different nationalities from diverse cultures, nations and primary languages. They cover Conrad’s presence across multiple media (fiction, films, comics, and graphic novels).

The collection is unique because the contributors focused on Conrad’s presence in contemporary culture – a constantly changing field – rather than well-trodden paths. The exploration of Polish, French, Italian, Spanish, English and American works of art strengthens its originality. The artists discussed in connection with Conrad include Olga Tokarczuk, Stanisław Lem, Robert Silveberg, Loic Godart, Christian Bobin, Christian Perrissin, Tom Tirabosco, Eduardo Berti, J.M. Coetzee, Michelangelo Antonioni.

Last but not least, the volume contains 20 stunning reproductions in full colour from films, graphic novels and comics.
In: Conrad’s Presence in Contemporary Culture