Spiritual and material dimensions of home in J. M. Coetzee’s Age of Iron


The aim of the article is to analyse the living conditions presented in J. M. Coetzee’s novel Age of Iron with reference to differences between the white and black communities of Cape Town in South Africa. It argues that differences in the conditions of living related to social and racial divisions are also reflected in the visions of the afterlife. The protagonist of the novel, Mrs Curren, portrays white people as living in comfort and dying in old age due to natural causes. The moment of their death constitutes a transition from earthly life to spiritual or incorporeal existence. In contrast, black people die young in apartheid fights. The dismal portrayal of the destruction of black people’s housing corresponds to Mrs Curren’s naturalistic descriptions of the dead bodies of young black activists. Their death does not involve a transformation into a spirit that has shed its body; death offers no relief, since their bodies and souls remain in “African hell”.


J.M. Coetzee, Age of Iron, home, house, spirituality, materialism, naturalism

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Published : 2022-08-01

Jęczmińska, K. (2022) “Spiritual and material dimensions of home in J. M. Coetzee’s Age of Iron”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (36). doi: 10.15290/CR.2022.36.1.04.

Kinga Jęczmińska  kinga.jeczminska@gmail.com
Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland  Poland

Kinga Jęczmińska received a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warsaw and a PhD in Medicine from the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow. She is pursuing a PhD in English Literature at the Jagiellonian University, focusing on the presentation of the mind-body relation in fiction by Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee and Ian McEwan. She is interested in the 19th–21st century English novel, history of medicine, philosophy of mind, cognitive science and psychiatry.