Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetze
The story is set in a small frontier town under the jurisdiction of a political entity known only as “the Empire”. The town’s magistrate is the story’s protagonist and first-person narrator. His rather peaceful existence in the town comes to an end with the declaration of a state of emergency and arrival of the Third Bureau, special forces of the Empire, led by a sinister Colonel Joll. There are rumors that the natives of the land, called “barbarians”, are preparing an attack on the Empire, and so Colonel Joll and his men conduct an expedition into the land beyond the frontier. They capture a number of barbarians, bring them back to town, torture them, kill some of them, and leave for the capital in order to prepare a larger campaign against the barbarians.
I was first introduced to this story in my major British authors class and immediately fell in love. I thoroughly enjoyed Coetzee’s writing style. I felt like he successfully commented on our own look and view at other people. It’s a tough subject to get across at times in literature, but I feel like he accomplished it with great grace. He was able to describe this situation from the spectator and shortly after the victims view so eloquently, you could easily fall in line.
The book’s main ploy of human rights and equality made it another reason for me to enjoy it. I feel like I’ll give it all away if I go any further, but I highly recommend this book. It’s on my favorites list.