The Seven Samurai and J M Coetzee

The Seven Samurai is a film in complete command of its medium yet naive enough to deal simply and directly with first things. Specifically it deals with the birth of the state, and it does so with Shakespearean clarity and comprehensiveness. In fact, what The Seven Samurai offers is no less than the Kurosawan theory of the origin of the state. Excerpt from The Diary of a Bad Year by J M Coetzee.

Toshiro Mifune (top)The Seven Samurai digital image by Fung-Lin Hall Hollywood remake with Yul Brynner.

A new book by J M Coetzee The Diary of a Bad Year will be published in Janaury 2008.

Stepping Stones a review of Hugo Claus Poems by Coetzee

In one of Hugo Claus’s later poems, a celebrated poet agrees to be interviewed by a younger man, also a poet. A few drinks soon unleash the malice and envy that lie behind the visit. Just between the two of us, asks the younger man, why do you keep the modern world at arm’s length? Why do you pay so much attention to the dead masters? And why are you so obsessed with technique? Don’t be offended, but sometimes I find you much too hermetic. And your rhyme patterns: they are so obvious, so childish. What is your philosophy, your basic idea, in a nutshell? The older man’s mind roams back to his childhood, to the dead masters Byron, Ezra Pound, Stevie Smith. “Stepping stones,” he says.

“Pardon?” says the puzzled interviewer.

“Stepping stones for the poem to tread on.” He leads the young man to the door, helps him on with his coat. From the doorstep he points up at the moon. Uncomprehending, the young man stares at the pointing finger.