Welcome to this Story Machine Productions performance of Life & Times of Michael K. We present this today in partnership with the Booker Prize Foundation to celebrate the prize’s 50th anniversary. J.M. Coetzee is one of only three writers to have won the Man Booker Prize on two occasions, and this slim book is one of the finest jewels in the prize’s illustrious crown.
Michael K’s life is unusual. He is a protagonist who rejects all the standard markers of progress and success. He is a loner – driven neither by company nor personal safety, but by a quest to live in harmony with himself, and symbiosis with the earth. National politics, race, religion, past and future: none of these matter to Michael so much as a few seeds in his pocket and a teaspoon of water to his lips.
But for J.M. Coetzee, they are paramount – the ‘life’ of Michael K may be independent, but the ‘times’ are interconnected, thorny, and complex. This is a fictional version of South Africa; this was written in the 1970s. A civil war is being fought curfews, patrols, and internal passports are in operation. Michael’s response to this environment of control and fear is to remain entirely unmoved, to refuse to shape himself to it.
Personal accountability and freedom from social norm are grand themes that runs through much of J.M. Coetzee’s body of work. Life & Times of Michael K expresses his absolute conviction in equality, liberty, and fraternity between all living creatures.
These major themes of the book feel relevant to today, as well. Politically, socially, personally. Can we live a life of personal dignity and morality when division, displacement, and rampant dishonesty are so prominent? Where does our responsibility lie – in how we live our own lives, or in how we influence beyond ourselves? These are the big questions that we have asked ourselves throughout development of this show.
Story Machine Productions brings books alive in immersive experiences. With it’s focus on simple pleasures – biting into a slice of roasted pumpkin after days of fasting, the feel of rich bare soil between ones fingers, the stillness of being alone in miles upon miles of empty landscape – Life & Times of Michael K is an ideal text. You can expect some sensory experiences and treats during this show. But do not fear, you will not be expected to participate! Like Michael, you are cut off from the rest of the world – disciples to his strange existence.
We hope you enjoy the show.