To detail the plot very simply Youth tells the story of a white man from South Africa who escapes to London thinking hoping like one usually does when one moves to a fancy town, of great adventures but ends up becoming one of the many soul less faces of the newly booming IT industry.
But then, no one reads a Coetzee for the plot. Though, it is credible how he weaves the plot through so many voices. Youth has two voices – the youth’s and the narrator’s. And it becomes difficult sometimes to tell the two apart.
So many issues are touched upon, questioned and dissected through the introspectively curious nature of the protagonist – writers and writing, poetry and prose, music and musicians, how difficult it is to write sometimes, how lonely do we become in cities full of people, fantasies and expectations of the youth vs reality of the modern world, how the grass is always greener on the other side, sex between strangers and of course the obvious ones against whose back drop the entire book is painted – family, South Africa, London, war and politics.
The play with the tenses and grammar, the play with the shifting voices in a single sentence, the dreamy tone flowing through many sentences, the words, his words seem to have a life of their own and now and then they intoxicate the reader and sometimes they spill over from the mind of the youth in to the plot.
The absence of any form of dialogue, inverted commas in this work does not take away the authenticity of the existence of the characters. The reader is aware of the progression of the plot – how in his misery he could dream so much and now that he is in comfort he can hardly create. Anguish, pain and the misery of the artist aside I like how Coetzee has chosen his words, or have the words chosen themselves, for the journey of the artist both inward and outward, how in the end when his existence becomes a slave of corporatism the words for him are bland, colourless.
Reading the book for me was intense, it was an assault on my mind, it over whelmed my being and the words, his words, they toyed with me and they played with me and I liked it very much.