J. M. Coetzee's 2013 novel The Childhood of Jesus (2013) is even more enigmatic than the rest of the author's challenging oeuvre. No one named Jesus—or Mary or Joseph—makes an appearance in the book. It is set not in Bethlehem, Nazareth, or Jerusalem, but in a seaport named Novilla. The local tongue is not Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin, or even English, the language in which Coetzee's Jesus books were written, but rather Spanish. The title of the novel invites a reader to expect some sort of Christian allegory, but the signifié, whatever it is, has drifted far, far away from the signifiant.

It is inevitable that Coetzee's Jesus fiction would provoke analysis. And, since the author, a native of South Africa, has been a citizen of Australia since 2006, it is natural that two Australian scholars, Jennifer Rutherford and Anthony Uhlmann, would assemble nine essays on The Childhood of...

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