"He thought of himself not as something heavy that left tracks behind it, but if anything as a speck upon the surface of an earth too deeply asleep to notice the scratch of ant-feet, the rasp of butterfly teeth, the tumbling of dust."

- from Life and Times of Michael K

This is one of the few sentences in the book that is conspicuously poetic. It is also one of the longest sentences in the book. I once read somewhere that for a sentence to be legible its length should not exceed 17 words. Coetzee's sentences average 10 words a sentence.

I am fascinated by writing that is simple. I think it speaks of a certain modesty, a certain self-discipline. Too often (and I berate myself enough for this), I find that I become preoccupied with the appearance of a sentence. When this happens, the meaning is lost. There are many big words, and perhaps some intelligent phrases, but on the whole, the sentence sticks stiff in the throat.

I hope that I will be able to write simply.


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