But the author, who did not even turn up to receive the two Booker prizes awarded to him, kept his date with Jaipur as he appeared before a more than packed audience here on Sunday.
Coetzee’s session was to start at 2:30 pm but the crowd was so anxious not to miss out on him that the lawns where he was scheduled to speak was spilling over with people an hour in advance.
People were everywhere, they sat on chairs, on the ground, on the stairs, around the stage and many more kept standing stoically. Those who could not get a seat included Jaipur Literature Festival’s co-director William Dalrymple who was spotted squatting on the ground right in front of the dais.
However, the author of ‘Disgrace’ stuck to his reputation of being a man of few words and instead of participating in a panel discussion, he just read out his story ‘The Old Woman and the Cats’. The announcer had informed the crowd in advance that the publicity-shy author would not be taking any questions — neither from the moderator nor from the audience.
British writer Patrick French, who introduced Coetzee to the audience, too seemed overwhelmed by the turnout. “This is the most substantial crowd to assemble for a non-Hindi session at the festival,” he said. Coetzee while reading out his story said that it also deals with the question of contraception being against the will of God in the tenets of Roman Catholicism, will connect to the audience in India.
“But then I thought to myself that Hinduism too cares for the question of from where the soul comes and where it goes,” he said before beginning his story. Many of his books, including his famous novel ‘Disgrace’, went out of stock from the bookshelves at the venue.