Foe – Following Fashionable Nonsense
Foe is a play on the name of Defoe. The title is very suggestive. It tells us that Defoe told the story from the point of the view of the white colonial master. The story is a twist on the famous story of Robinson Crusoe. In this case the castaway is a woman, who meets Friday on the forsaken island. To her, Friday is not such a slave as he was to Crusoe. But Friday is not communicative and it is hard to know what he feels. It seems that he has almost no feelings and no reactions.
After they are rescued the heroine, Susan Barton goes to a writer Daniel Foe to write hers and Friday’s story. But Foe radically changes Susan’s version and the story which is finally published has no resemblance to the original one. Coetzee is making the charge that every story told by the Europeans is a lie.
But he goes further. He does not only doubt the intentions of European colonialists. He doubts the very process of story-telling. In his view, it is not possible to tell a story at the first place. The story is corrupted as it is told. Even more, reality is corrupted as it is witnessed. So the meaning which comes out of Foe is: the story of Robinson Crusoe and by extensions, the story of the European conquest of the world was distorted at three levels, first at the level of witnessing, then at the level of story-telling and at last as a willful distortion by the Christian, white European colonialists.
Here Coetzee misapplies some concepts of modern science disastrously. He falls prey to the fashionable nonsense as is expected of post-modernist writers. They hide their artistic incompetency by calling simple story-telling as old-fashioned and misapply some modern scientific concepts, which make their craft incomprehensible. At last they insert their leftist political agenda. This is what is done to Foe.
Although Coetzee does not believe in the art of story-telling but still he keeps writing to further his political agenda. After reading Foe, one is left with a confused story but with strong feelings against the Europeans.