Slow Man/Philosophy Made Simple

How do two agnostic men—unsure of the existence of God and with no religious affiliation—deal with the coming of old age, disability and death? J. M. Coetzee and Robert Hellenga, both novelists with impressive track records (Coetzee received the 2003 Nobel Prize in literature, and Hellenga is the author of several highly acclaimed previous novels), fruitfully explore this terrain in their most recent books. Both deal with men in their fraught 60th year. A bicycle accident sends Paul Rayment, Coetzee’s protagonist, flying into a constricted life. In contrast, a series of impulses and visionary moments lead Rudy Harrington, Hellenga’s main character, into an expanded life. The two men couldn’t be more different, yet the similarities between their transitions into old age are striking.


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