Books: Malignancies

AGE OF IRON by J.M. Coetzee

Random House; 198 pages; $18.95

At the heart of J.M. Coetzee's disturbing new novel is the stark image of cancer, a malignant disease that takes little pity on its victim as it ravages and destroys. The narrator of the tale is Mrs. Curren, a white South African widow of the liberal variety who is being eaten from within by a cancer she knows will shortly end her life. Her physical pain and advanced years entitle her to live out her final days in a quiet, dignified fashion. But circumstances conspire against graceful surrender. Separated by...

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