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Masters of disgrace

Philip Roth and JM Coetzee are very different writers with a lot in common: their hard visions of life, their interest in sexual transgression and their tendency to put themselves in their novels. Moreover, with age, their visions are getting closer

By William Skidelsky   November 2007

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Novelists, Martin Amis once wrote, are at their best in middle age. “They come good at 30, they peak at 50… at 70, novelists are ready to be kicked upstairs.” But the creative arc is less predictable than this. Some novelists—Amis is an example—produce their best work before the bloom of youth has quite faded; others retain their powers until late in life. Two novelists who have been ageing well recently are Philip Roth (born 1933) and JM Coetzee (born 1940), both of whom have new books out this autumn. Aside from…

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