At first reading, Youth may strike one as the gloomy tale of its protagonist's failure to become a poet. But the book is uniformly legible as the story of his steady commitment to prose—of his growing understanding that, unlike the poet, the fiction writer is a located creature, perhaps even “a person unable to live without a country.” All the happy moments in Youth are ones in which we see him nearing his true passion. And all the new insights he stumbles on manifest something about the art of fiction and mold the work Coetzee was eventually to write. The most important of these insights arises from John's first venture into fiction: a short story about a young man who finds out that his love has been unfaithful to him.
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