A festival representative went up on stage and informed the audience, “Mr Coetzee did not even turn up to receive the two Booker prizes awarded to him. We are so glad he is here.” But Coetzee did not smile or laugh. His face remained expressionless, as he kept fidgeting in his seat.
Patrick French was to be Coetzee’s panelist. And nobody can say French didn’t try. “You know, I read the newspaper today,” he said. “And it said Junot Diaz is Spanish.” The audience laughed. But Coetzee was staring at the floor of the stage.
French tried again, this time including Coetzee in the joke. “The news report also stated I’m going to be standing on the stage with Mr Coetzee and reading his work for 45 minutes. Even I didn’t know this was going to happen.” Coetzee continued looking down.
Coetzee started with
“Like most people, I have opinions. I don’t find my opinions particularly interesting…”
…French tried another joke. “Mr Coetzee you have done something remarkable. You have held an Indian audience silent for 45 minutes. You have a remarkable capacity to make people smile and laugh even while keeping a straight face yourself.” Coetzee smiled…