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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
JM Coetzee: Academic to author
JM Coetzee
Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa
Winning the Nobel prize for literature is the latest achievement in John Maxwell Coetzee's already impressive career.

He has won the Booker Prize twice, as well as numerous other literary awards.

According to Horace Endgahl, permanent secretary of the Nobel Academy, the decision to honour Coetzee was an easy one to make.

"We were very much convinced of the lasting value of his contribution to literature," he said.

"I think he is a writer that will continue to be discussed and analysed and we think should belong to our literary heritage".

Coetzee was born in Cape Town in 1940 to German and English parents, and grew up using English as his first language.

We were very much convinced of the lasting value of his contribution to literature
Horace Endgahl, Nobel Academy

After graduating from the university of Cape Town in the early 60s, he moved to England where he worked as a computer programmer.

In 1972, he earned a PhD in literature from the University of Texas and went to on to teach the subject at the University of New York until 1983.

By this time, he was already an established author, with his first book Dusklands - made up of two novellas, published in 1974.

But it wasn't until six years later that he broke the international market with the novel Waiting For The Barbarians.

Disgrace won the 1999 Booker Prize
The book, which focuses on a government magistrate who begins to question the motives of his employers, won South Africa's highest literary honour - the Central News Agency Literary Prize.

His first Booker Prize came in 1983 with The Life And Times Of Michael K - about a young South African man trying to shield his mother from the country's civil unrest.

The issue of South African apartheid and the conflicts arising from it is a recurring theme throughout many of his works.

Politics feature prominently in the likes of 1977's In The Heart Of The Country and 1986's Foe - his own reworking of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

They also serve as a backdrop in his second Booker prize winner, 1999's Disgrace, set on a remote South African farm and centring on both personal as well as political conflict.

Away from his novels, Coetzee has enjoyed a successful academic career.

He now lives in Australia but teaches at the University of Chicago part of the year, and has taught at the University of Cape Town.

His most recent novel, Elizabeth Costello, was published in September and made the long list for this year's Booker Prize.

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