Coetzee’s Slow Man starts off like its title, slow. For the first twenty or so pages, the reader many wonder where this rather prosaic story is going. Is Coetzee really going to tell the story of a man’s struggle after the amputation of his leg?
But Coetzee always surprises, and Slow Man is no different. The novel beings, at about page thirty, to take different, deeper turns. Elizabeth Costello, Coetzee’s fictional shadow self appears, and we get into meta-discussions on writers and characters. There is something deeply moving about the relationship between the amputee and Costello: two old people trying to make sense of their failing power, their weakening body, and their inability to leave a mark on a hard, impermeable world.
Be patient with this novel. Give it time to unfold. Coetzee is the master of applique. Sometimes it takes him time to build up the layers, but when he does, as in this novel, the results are spellbinding.