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"Here and Now" consists of letters exchanged in the years 2008-2011 between American novelist Paul Auster - Winter Journal (2010); 4 3 2 1 (2017) etc. - and South African (now an Australian citizen) Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee - Scenes from Provincial Life (2012) etc. The book is announced as ‘an epistolary dialogue between two great writers who became great friends.’
The theme of friendship runs through the book, theoretically at first, as Coetzee reflects on friendship's enigmatic nature. As the correspondence goes on, the men’s friendship appears to cement, helped along by face-to-face meetings all over the world.
The dialogue is regularly initiated by Coetzee’s observations and questions while Auster attempts to find answers. The exchanges show two curious men trying to understand sport on TV, the 2008 financial crash, fatherhood, literature, film and philosophy, liberal politics, marriage, love. Although Beckett, Dostoyevsky and Derrida are mentioned the letters are not heavily literary in style, dealing also with day-to-day trivia like travel plans, food, sleep habits.
Reading the book can feel like taking a long and pleasant walk with two intelligent friends. Both authors are approaching the last stage of their lives, neither one exhibits an urgent need to become engaged or solve the world’s problems. The tone is placid and reflective.