On a stockpile of erasers.

When I am dead and my son comes to empty my house, he will find a small suitcase on top of my wardrobe crammed with the erasers I that I have amassed throughout my life. On every trip I have made, whether on the island or abroad, I have never been able to restrain myself, I have always bought erasers of different colors and sizes. My son will be baffled, he will perceive it as an old man’s whim. Perhaps I should explain to him that it has been my particular way of frustrating time’s attrition, postponing death and sustaining the illusion that one can always erase everything and make a fresh start.

– From THE LAST BROTHER, by Nathacha Appanah

The “brilliantly exuberant” ILUSTRADO.

I’ve been seeing good press for Miguel Syjuco’s first novel Ilustrado, which comes with a fledgling-writer’s-fantasy story. NPR’s notice:

A dead body floating in the Hudson River kicks off the action in Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. The corpse belongs to the late Filipino writer-provocateur, Crispin Salvador. And the search for the late author’s much-rumored unfinished masterpiece, The Bridges Ablaze — 20 years in the making — inspires the protagonist on a dizzying literary treasure hunt. The protagonist, by the way, also goes by the name of Miguel Syjuco. Ilustrado, Syjuco’s first novel, won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize as an unpublished manuscript.

The Guardian notes that

The novel has earned comparisons to with Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell and Roberto Bolaño

which, only after cutting and pasting it, do I notice that little grammatical boo-boo. I’m leaving it in there.

I’m only a short way into my reading of it, but once again we have a book that is obviously aimed at a certain sort of reader (might as well have shoehorned “and Paul Auster’s NEW YORK TRILOGY” in between the Murakami and Mitchell name-drops) with its comparisons, which in turn elevate my anticipation of a great read, which then triggers the realization that every time I walk down this “Murakamimitchellauster-like” path, I end up bitterly disappointed, which makes me simultaneously weary of all fiction and also, like an inveterate gambler, unable to resist rolling the dice again. (“The Amnesiac”? Fail. “The Raw Shark Texts”? Fail. Pretty much every “fans of Murakamimitchellauster will experience paroxysms of delight”-promising new book? Fail.)

Coetzee and ethics.

This looks interesting. Coming in June, J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature.

In 2003, the South African writer J. M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for a tradition of work that questioned widely shared ethical assumptions. In his portrayal of racial repression, sexual politics, the guises of reason, and human beings’ hypocrisy toward animals and nature, Coetzee had become, in the words of the prize committee, “a scrupulous doubter, ruthless in his criticism of the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilization.”
Tackling Coetzee’s extensive and extraordinary corpus and paying particular attention to the author’s representation of the human-animal relationship, Anton Leist and Peter Singer deeply explore Coetzee’s impact on ethical theory and philosophy. They assemble an outstanding group of contributors who debate the personally ethical and political through the prism of Coetzee’s work. They also confront the elementary conditions of life, the origins of morality, the recognition of value in others, the sexual dynamics between men and women, and the possibility of equality in a postcolonial society. With its wide-ranging consideration of philosophical issues, especially in relation to literary texts, this volume stands alone in its extraordinary dialogue between ethical inquiry and narrative technique.