In The Childhood of Jesus, the first instalment of what now, somewhat surprisingly, proves to be J M Coetzee’s series of Jesus novels, we followed a strange boy named Davíd and his adoptive guardian, Simón, who had come on a ship across Lethean waters to the land of Novilla. In the voyage they had been washed clean of all memories of their earlier lives, adopting new names along with the Spanish language, out of which their episodic philosophical dialogues were all purportedly translated. In Novilla, a benevolent if not entirely appealing utopia of mild, passionless rationality, they sought, found and joined Inés, a woman whom they deemed to be Davíd’s mother.
Simón found a job as a labourer and engaged in philosophical dialogues with the Novillans about the meaning of work and the nature of desire. He and Inés ambivalently became a couple of sorts and engaged in philosophical dialogues about the meaning of marriage and parenthood. Davíd studied