J.M. Coetzee’s highly creative ‘Diary of a Bad Year.’

This new novel by the South Africa–born laureate is quite literally layered — three concurrent narratives run in horizontal stripes throughout the book. The upper layer consists of curmudgeonly essays about the death of human compassion; the middle one is the aging essayist's own diary; and the lowest, narrated by his typist and caretaker, tells the story of how her boyfriend connives to rob the writer. It's a deep and gripping story, full of tension … but how do you read it? From left to right, of course!

Diary of a Bad Year

J.M. Coetzee