Haunting and surreptitiously heartfelt ... In an age of virtue signaling, Coetzee has the courage to bypass every fashionable position and reassurance and, by so doing, in The Pole, to catch some emotional truth, about loneliness and bewilderment and need, that really pierces ... An unstoppably readable riddle that takes all kinds of surprising turns.
Tightly focused, a late style ... At the same time, it represents a return of sorts — to the spareness of his early writing as well as to his fascination with artists as characters ... Among the pleasures of The Pole are the layers it reveals. It is a book not only of the living but also of the dead. What does love mean? Coetzee wants us to consider. And memory — what consolations can it offer when we know it doesn’t last? ... Deeply moving.
Gravid ... A simple thread on which to hang beads of perception. Coetzee, who is 83, retains a sure touch. This is a convincing late-period novel. If it doesn’t rank with this Nobelist’s finest work, it is no embarrassment. It’s a pared-down book that avoids the excess philosophizing that has dragged down some of his more recent novels.
[Gives] readers little in the way of escapist details about Barcelona. There are no gaudy mentions of Gaudi or knowing references to vermouth hour; the Circle takes Witold out for an Italian meal, not for tapas. Beatriz and the pianist converse briefly in stilted English, neither’s first choice of language. The incoherence is adjacent to silence, as Coetzee pushes his signature sparseness to the limits of intelligibility ... Coetzee muddies the waters of national purity with his trademark clarity ... The book approaches the politics of Polishness in true Coetzee fashion: with elegant elision, at such an angle as to be almost imperceptible ... What was absent in the original that could be found only in translation? The novel presents words and what we desire to say as two points on a map, as far apart as the poles. To confront the distance between them is daunting, but love pushes us along.