Senor C´s view on Anya in J.M. Coetzee´s "Diary of a Bad Year"

Essay, 2010

7 Seiten, Note: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. The heavenly beauty

3. A blue-eyed lady-friend

4. On erotic fantasies

5. Conclusion

6. References

1. Introduction

One of the soft opinions in Diary of a Bad Year focuses on a fictional fan mail. The main character, the senescent author Juan C, gets a letter from a Swiss woman who complains about his way of characterizing female figures. Besides, she opines that he “understand[s] nothing about women” and “particularly about women´s sexual psychology” (161)[1]. The addressee´s reaction to this critique is a rather cynical reference to the female reader´s “paranoid” way of perceiving his books (162), but he does not give a direct answer. So the reader of J.M. Coetzee´s Diary of a Bad Year is left with one question: What is Senor C.´s image of women and how much does it differ from the fictional reality?

Because there is only one female character in the novel who is described by Juan C. in detail, this question must be answered by examining his image of Anya. She is presented by Coetzee through her own and Senor C´s perspective, both recorded in diary entries. Reading Juan C´s journal, one can observe three images he has of Anya. He sees her as an “angelic” (8) and “heavenly beauty” (190), as a rather stereotypical simple wife, and as the woman of his erotic fantasies. Referring to Anya´s diary entries, some of these images are proved, some turn out to be wrong and some are consciously supported by her.

2. The heavenly beauty

The first time Juan C meets Anya, he carefully describes her dress “that showed off a derriere so near to be angelic” (8). Although this comment might refer to Anya´s physical features as well, it also reveals the writer´s perception of her charisma. She is not just wearing something to be clothed, but is dressed “in a flash of white slacks”, a metaphor which evokes an image of innocence and beauty at the same time. Her charm on him seems to be tangible in his comment about Anya´s “currents” she “release[s] into the environment” and that “crackle[...] the air around” them (13). This supernatural picture is also expressed when he ponders on his dream about his end of life (59-65): Even though he wonders if he agrees with Anya as the “one” who “conduct[s]” him to death (60), she appears to him in the role of a redeemer. Just this role of an angel is mirrored in the question “Are you new on this earth?” (5) or the periphrasis “heavenly beauty” to describe Anya (190). Moreover, Coetzee makes him idealizing her by a climax of antonyms: To Senor C, Anya is far more than “sweet as opposed to salty” or “gold as opposed to silver”, but “earth as opposed to air” (112-113). This last antonym is meant to picture her steadfast loyalty and reliability.

Without a doubt, Anya is a reliable secretary who “meets her daily quota” (25) as well as an honest partner in conversation. Though, she seems to be as faithful to her partner as to her boss. In her last letter to Senor C, Anya ensures that she “never really listened when Alan ranted on about” him. This is not very convincing considering several of her diary entries where she noted down her partner´s estimations on Juan C´s unworldly opinions word by word.

In this very latter, she also tantalizes Juan C. with a future he will never reach: “In another life [...] I could be your inspiration. Your resident inspiration. How would you like that? You could sit at your desk and write, and I could take care of the rest. [...] Pay no attention. Just an idea” (204). These quietly whispered words evoke a picture of the writer and his secretary as a happy couple with fixed roles. Yet Anya only dares to play with his desire for her because she knows that Juan C is too old to realize these dreams. Anya´s comment that she is not a dreamer but a practical person (205) supports this thesis that she is just creating an illusion.

Moreover, her angel-image seems to be consciously constructed. A woman with a dressing room full of clothes can be expected to think about what she signals with her appearance. Hence, she is “clad all in white”, keeps her “eyes cast down” and “claspe[s]” her arms “over her breast” (149) to make Senor C believe in her virtuousness after he offended her by saying that she has been “dishonoured” (111).


[1] Coetzee, J.M.: Diary of a Bad Year. The following pages of this book are not marked with further information.

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Senor C´s view on Anya in J.M. Coetzee´s "Diary of a Bad Year"
Freie Universität Berlin  (Institut für Englische Philologie)
Surveying English Literature: Biographical Fiction
ISBN (eBook)
427 KB
senor, anya, coetzee´s, diary, year
Arbeit zitieren
Franz Kröber (Autor), 2010, Senor C´s view on Anya in J.M. Coetzee´s "Diary of a Bad Year", München, GRIN Verlag,


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