J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime: Mistranslation, Linguistic Unhousedness, and the Extraterritorial Literary Community.

  • María J. López
Keywords: Summertime, mistranslation, linguistic unhousedness, extraterritorial literary community


This article deals with J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime, focusing on its depiction of linguistic multiplicity as allied with confusion and misunderstanding, given the impossibility of an unequivocal and straightforward road between languages and hence, the inevitability of mistranslation. In this work, we encounter characters that hover between languages without properly belonging to any of them, a linguistic unhousedness accompanied by territorial and cultural unsettlement. This is especially the case of John Coetzee, presented as an outsider as regards family and homeland, with an imperfect knowledge of Afrikaans and a relation to the English language depicted in primarily instrumental and professional terms. As a clear continuation of Boyhood, Summertime fancifully projects and subverts the illusion of belonging on the Afrikaans language, together with that of belonging on the Karoo land. Given the absence of other meaningful communities, such as the ethnic or the national, the only community projected by Summertime is the community of writers who, like J. M. Coetzee and borrowing George Steiner’s expression, are ‘extraterritorial’ writers, never linguistically at home. In order to develop these ideas, attention will be paid to other works by Coetzee, such as Boyhood, Youth, Slow Man, Diary of a Bad Year, and the collection of letters he has exchanged with Paul Auster, Here and Now.

Author Biography

María J. López
Universidad de Córdoba