In the realm of literature, the concept of “late style” has long fascinated scholars and readers alike. The term, first coined by Theodor Adorno in 1937, describes a profound shift in the artistic expression of ageing artistes, often marked by stark, unforgiving narratives. It’s a reflection of the proximity of death, and this theme takes centre stage in J.M. Coetzee’s latest work, The Pole.
At the age of 83, Coetzee, a Nobel laureate in literature, returns to the spareness of his early writing while delving into the lives of artists as characters.
The Pole unfolds in Barcelona, Spain and chronicles the intriguing relationship between a tall Polish pianist and an elegant woman named Beatriz, who is deeply involved in charitable endeavours. Their paths cross in the world of classical music recitals, offering a unique backdrop for the exploration of late style.
Coetzee’s narrative, according to The LA Times, is a captivating maze of perspectives. The story primarily unfolds from Beatriz’s point of view, but Coetzee continually reminds readers of the author’s presence as a storyteller. This metafictional approach adds layers to the narrative, emphasising its constructed nature.
Throughout the book, Coetzee invites readers to question the reliability of the narrative, with Beatriz’s internal struggles and self-deception playing a central role. The story dances between attraction and resistance, love and pity, presenting a complex web of emotions and personal narratives that challenge the very concept of truth.
The Pole is a testament to Coetzee’s storytelling prowess, revealing not only the intricacies of human relationships but also the fleeting nature of memory and the inevitable dissolution of all things. As readers navigate the intricate layers of the novel, they are prompted to ponder the meaning of love, memory, and the enduring impact of late style in literature.