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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.2, 373 ~ 398, 2020
The Question of Truth-Telling in Autobiography: A Reading of J. M. Coetzee’s Youth
유영현 Young-hyeon Ryu
This essay examines J. M. Coetzee’s question of truth-telling in his autobiographical writing. Analyzing mainly the writer’s second memoir Youth(2002), this study focuses on the issue of authorial sincerity in telling a confessional truth since the author’s self-reflection over his own truthfulness makes a leitmotif of this memoir. Despite some debates among critics about the fictionality of the memoir, what definitely guarantees from this text a faithful account of the writer’s memories is the narrator’s supposed sincere feeling towards truth-telling that underpins its confessional voice. Particularly paying attention to Coetzee’s careful revision of literary conventions in autobiography, we see that the writer’s efforts to explicate the real purpose of finding and telling a truth about his London life in the 1960s are deeply concerned with the narrator’s meta-autobiographical position. Then, what matters is that although Coetzee’s self-critique with his “countervoices” tries to disclose a ‘self-interest’ in remembering and organizing the past memories, there exists a skeptical point of view with respect to the truthfulness of the narrator’s truth-telling. This is a kind of epistemological dilemma that would be unavoidable in any self-conscious conception of confessional truth in one’s autobiography. Therefore, in order to overcome the limitation of self-doubt and self-referential paradox in autobiographical writing, Coetzee suggests alternatively an ethical approach for the intersubjective truth in confession in which mutual “trust” and “grace” are entrusted with the sincerity of the confessor.
Key Words
J, M, 쿳시, 『청년시절』, 진실 말하기, 고백, 자서전, J, M, Coetzee, Youth, truth-telling, confession, autobiography
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