I read Foe by J.M. Coetzee for my World Literature class, and could not put it down. This was unusual for me, especially because I had so much other work to do. Even so, I finished it weeks early and spent most of my spring break thinking about all of the issues it had brought to light. Foe is a post-colonial revision of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, adopting the characters Cruso and Friday from this novel. Coetzee changes plot and character–even the spelling of Crusoe–in his revision, so much so that Foe barely resembles Robinson Crusoe.
This postmodern novel uses language to address the fallibility of language–a highly meta-textual topic that postmodernism often addresses. It also attempts to answer the question posed by Gayatri Spivak: Can the Subaltern Speak? Friday, whose tongue has been cut out in Coetzee’s rewriting, exists as a perfect example of the subaltern who arguable does not even try to communicate with the narrator, Susan Barton.
Overall, this is a fantastic read, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to do some serious thinking. Part IV of this text is boggling and offers no resolution to this multi-valent text. Do not read this if you are looking for a happy ending, or a neatly tied up story, but if you want to challenge yourself, this is the book for you.
*Foe was published in 1986 by the Penguin Group. It received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. Coetzee is also a Booker Prize-winning author.