12 June 2016

A Note on The Childhood of Jesus




     J. M. Coetze gives us his version of what Jesus would have been like as a six year old.  He has arrived in a new world without parents but with Simon who takes it upon himself to look after the child and find David's mother.  He finds Inez playing tennis and intuitively determines that she will be the mother of David which is the name given the child in the novel.  Inez decides she will be the mother of the boy against the wishes of her brothers.  So we have a child in a place where he knows only Simon who has taken upon himself to act as father and Inez who has taken upon herself to act as mother with the addition of a small cast of characters that come and go.  Joseph was not the father of Jesus but certainly took on that role.  Coetze must have his doubts about Mary who certainly took the role of mother.

     The child is self-willed, extremely intelligent, and fanciful often speaking in what will become parables as an adult.  The child determines the action of the novel; he is the moving force in the lives of Simon and Inez and at times the other characters of the book with whom he interacts. The story of Jesus at age 12 comes to mind.  The character of David created by Coetze would not hesitate to address the adult world with instruction and opinion.  It isn't quite clear what the attraction the child has to the adults he meets, but the adults of the novel revolve around him and bind them to him.

     Numerous times David asks to be taken to the scene of death so that he may breathe live into them. He is not allowed to go for the simple reason that to the adult world breathing life into a dead person or a dead horse is simply a childhood fantasy.  Coetze does not allow us to see whether the child at the age six can bring back life, but presumably forecasts future events.  The book from which Simon teaches David to read is Don Quixote.

     The Don is real to David and David has a difficult time separating fiction from reality.  It takes some explaining by Simon for David to understand the concept of fiction.  There is nothing in the novel that would cause one to think that David understands a difference as the story ends.  Maybe fact and fiction are one and the same to Jesus.

   

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