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Elizabeth Costello

Cuts of meat hanging up

Elizabeth Costello

J. M. Coetzee’s novel, Elizabeth Costello, brings together two different sorts of questions about integrity in the character of Elizabeth Costello. First, as Elizabeth finds herself compelled to bear witness to the horrors of animal slaughter she renders herself isolated, misunderstood, and cruel. How can a person of integrity avoid her fate? Should she even try?

Second, as an author Elizabeth Costello is troubled by a fellow author’s re-imagining of the inner world of someone who committed horrific crimes. Her objection is not that the author has done the job badly and presented an unconvincing portrait – rather some truths should not be said, or should not be said in certain ways. Her discomfort raises questions about the integrity of the author and the limits of her duty to the truth.

Suggested reading

  • J. M. Coetzee. Elizabeth Costello
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