‘I wouldn’t have said Balthus was naive. I’d have said on the contrary that he’s very sophisticated.’
‘It’s the same thing,’ Alberto stated flatly.
This exchange, from James Lord’s A Giacometti Portrait, could serve as an epigraph to this collection of J M Coetzee’s essays, which move uncomfortably between the interestingly complex and the surprisingly straightforward. They are billed as ‘late’ essays, but it would be a shame if ‘late’ were held to indicate that they stand at the end of a career (like Beethoven’s Late Quartets) rather than that they are of recent production (‘I have of late, but wherefore I know not…’): they mark an obvious weakening in focus and a concentration of critical faculties on odd and unrewarding terrain.