Through the conflicted perspective of the Magistrate it becomes apparent that the barbarians are not simply a population 'out there' beyond the frontier occupied by the empire.
The shocking, barbaric violence that Colonel Joll deals out to an elderly barbarian and a young child in the opening pages works to draw into question the very distinction between civilised and savage.
As the narrative of his recent Man Booker Prize-winning novel (1999) demonstrates (with its metafictional elements, its suspension in the present tense and its generation of critical uncertainty) veracity is something Coetzee seeks to problematise rather than produce.
At the centre of is 52-year-old David Lurie: 'Once a professor of modern languages, he has been, since Classics and Modern Languages were closed down as part of the great rationalization, adjunct professor of communications.
His first published book was was shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific region, Best Book) and the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award. He emigrated to Australia in 2002, where he has an honorary position at the University of Adelaide.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003 and knighted in the Order of the Dutch Lion in 2010.
The very different protagonists of these narratives: Eugene Dawn (an expert in psychological warfare) and Coetzee (an adventurer and pioneer), turn out to be involved in strikingly similar forms of oppression.
It is this kind of relationship between oppressor and oppressed in the second part of (1980).
Coetzee grew up in a new development north of Cape Town, tormented by guilt and fear.
With a father he despised, and a mother he both adored and resented, he led a double life—the brilliant and well-behaved student at school, the princely despot at home, always terrified of losing his mother's love.