Waiting for the Barbarians is a novel written by the South African-born Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee. Published in 1980 it won the James Tait Black Memorial and Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prizes for fiction. “Set in a small frontier town under the jurisdiction of a political entity known only as “the Empire”, the story is told from the perspective of the town’s magistrate, who has experienced peace and tranquility until a threat from “the barbarians” throws his world into turmoil. A chilling and gripping journey to the dark side of humanity that asks: just who are the barbarians?”
The book’s title comes from a poem by Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine P. Cavafy. American composer Philip Glass wrote an opera based on the book which premiered in 2005.
In August 2012, the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town presented Alexandre Marine’s stage adaptation of the novel. The production ran in Montreal at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts throughout January and February, 2013. I met with the play’s Canadian-South African producer Maurice Podbrey at his home in Montreal to talk about the play, the novel, Coetzee, South Africa, Barbarians and the challenges of bring books to stage. Please listen here: