In Estrella, David has grown to be a tall ten-year-old who is a natural at soccer, and loves kicking a ball around with his friends. He refuses to do sums and will not read any books except Don Quixote.. One day Julio Fabricante, the director of a nearby orphanage, invites David and his friends to form a proper soccer team. David decides he will leave Simón and Inés to live with Julio, but before long he succumbs to a mysterious illness. In The Death of Jesus, J. M. Coetzee continues to explore the meaning of a world empty of memory but brimming with questions.
This is a ridiculous book. I don’t mean it deserves mockery, but that this...is the final book in a trilogy characterised by absurdity ... It’s in the second half of the book, approaching David’s death and afterwards, that The Death of Jesus achieves its purpose: to conclude the trilogy with force and heart. Through all three books Simón and David look for answers, but Coetzee is asking us to read the trilogy—to read all books—to seek meaning, rather than find it; to understand, paraphrasing TS Eliot, that art communicates before it is understood ... So this is a ridiculous book, full of unexplained developments, unrealistic dialogue and overcooked analogies. Like Don Quixote, it is a fiction about fiction. But many great books are ridiculous, and if The Death of Jesus strikes you in the right place, then you will read its cool, dry final sentences—as I did—with tears in your eyes.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Coetzee making radical skepticism about the ontological status of numbers and the realness of reality central to the message of God’s appointed messenger...You could call him a novelist of ideas, but also a philosopher working in fiction ... Many of Coetzee’s recent novels have the stripped-down quality of philosophical fable. His prose has never been ornamental, but in his later years it has grown particularly spare. This is not unpleasant; rather, it’s disorienting, then hypnotic. When Coetzee withholds back story, the reader must learn to tolerate mystery. Conversations between Simón and David have the purity of Socratic dialogue, though with an anti-Platonic twist.
... These are strange novels, easily guyed as clumsy allegories, full of sententious philosophizing, deliberately flatly written, too easily claiming significance through their allusion to the Biblical story. I can only report that I have found them, despite the bafflement, full of truth, irreducible, tearfully moving to read.