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Elizabeth Costello  
Author J. M. Coetzee
Country Australia
Language English
Genre(s) Fiction, Literature
Publisher Secker & Warburg
Publication date 30 September 2003
Media type Print (Hardback), (Paperback)
Pages 224pp
ISBN 0436206161
OCLC Number 52456771

Elizabeth Costello is a 2003 novel by South African-born Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee.

In this novel, Elizabeth Costello, an aging Australian writer, travels around the world and gives lectures on topics including the lives of animals and literary censorship. In her youth, Costello wrote The House on Eccles Street, a novel that re-tells James Joyce's Ulysses from the perspective of the protagonist's wife, Molly Bloom. Costello, becoming weary from old age, confronts her fame, which seems further and further removed from who she has become, and struggles with issues of belief, vegetarianism, sexuality, language and evil.

Many of the lectures Costello gives are edited pieces that Coetzee previously published. Elizabeth Costello is the main character in Coetzee's academic novel, The Lives of Animals (1999). A character named Elizabeth Costello also appears in Coetzee's 2005 novel Slow Man.


Background fiction

The penultimate chapter, "At the Gate", is an overt reworking of several of Franz Kafka's stories and novels, principally "Before the Law" and The Trial. The last chapter consists of a letter from Lady Chandos to Francis Bacon. This is a fictitious intertext to the well-known Lord Chandos Letter by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1902). The Chandos Letter, in which the narrator, Philip Lord Chandos, laments that language has begun to fail his need for self-expression, is often cited as a key text of literary modernism. Coetzee's fabrication of Lady Chandos's letter replicates what in the novel Elizabeth Costello herself is presented having done, namely adding a female voice (that of Molly Bloom) to a canonical modernist work (Ulysses).



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