Reviewed by Jan Wilm
Jesus isn’t God, Jesus is Godot. Beckett’s Godot is an expected absentee, and in J. M. Coetzee's 2013 novel, The Childhood of Jesus, Jesus, both as an exalted religious figure and as a fictional character of that name, is neither present nor expected; instead, Jesus remains a symbolically charged absence. Rather than centering on the salad days of the Son of God and his parents Mary and Joseph, Coetzee’s narrative tells the story of three pedestrian figures bearing the names of David, Inés, and Simón. Knowing the backstory of this impromptu family may allow readers to fully appreciate Coetzee’s subsequent and latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, but it is hardly necessary and, rather, adds to a reader’s appreciation of the text, as The Schooldays of Jesus can be read both in dialogue with Coetzee’s earlier book and with a larger artistic tradition extending back to the work of Kafka and Dostoyevsky, and the music and life of Johann Sebastian Bach . . .