What Is a Classic? (J. M. Coetzee)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"What Is a Classic?" is an essay by J. M. Coetzee featured in Stranger Shores: Literary Essays, 1986–1999 (2001).

Coetzee includes commentary on his early confrontation with the classics. Inspired by Eliot's 1944 lecture of the same title [in which Eliot asserts that classic status can be known "only by hindsight and in historical perspective."], Coetzee speaks of the classic in this way: “What does it mean in living terms to say that a classic is what survives? How does such a concept of the classic manifest itself in people’s lives?”

Of his first exposure to Johann Sebastian Bach, Coetzee muses: "was the spirit of that culture ‘speaking to me across the ages … or … was [I] symbolically electing high European culture, and command of the codes of that culture, as a route that would take me out of my class position in white South African society … of what I must have felt … an historical dead end?".

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "What Is a Classic? (J. M. Coetzee)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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