I finished it on Sunday night but I'm not sure if I can tell you what it was about, because I'm still trying to work it out for myself!
This book reminds me of Possession by A.S. Byatt in that I know enough to know that I missed half the allusions and references embedded in the story.
I felt like I got most of the Christian references - Coetzee's take on no room at the inn, the virgin birth, turn the other cheek, loaves and fishes, the trinity - were chortle out loud moments for me.
But were they meant to be?
Were we in heaven? Maybe it was some kind of dystopian/utopian Spain? Or just some kind of literary made up novel world?
David was one of the most annoying children I've ever met. He was arrogant, petulant, naïve, attention-seeking and demanding. A spoilt brat.
Despite such oddness, or maybe because of it, I still found The Childhood of Jesus utterly compelling and thought provoking. I basically read it in three sittings.
The chaos and uncertainty of 'where are we, what's going on?' kept me riveted.
The philosophising stevedores were adorable and annoying at the same time. The bland, passionless world became more frightening as the story progressed.
I give you one paragraph (from one of the philosophising stevedores) that for me sums up some of the layers of this story...about the nature of the novel, what is real and how we know if something is real or not...
Consider now history. If history, like climate were a higher reality, then history would have manifestations which we would be able to feel through our senses. But where are these manifestations?' He looks around. 'Which of us has ever had his cap blown off by history?' There is silence. 'No one. Because history has no manifestations. Because history is not real. Because history is just a made-up story.
This will no doubt become one of those love it or hate it books.
Curiously, it looks like I will be falling into the love camp.
(We now claim Coetzee as one of our own. He moved to Australia in 2002 and became an Australian citizen in 2006. We're cheeky buggers like that!)