A man on his bicycle rides down the road in his suburb. A car hits him and the results are dramatic. He is transported to a hospital and part of a leg has to be amputated. He refuses an artificial limb and moves back to his apartment.
In this apartment Paul Rayment, a retired photographer of Dutch and French origin, struggles, not just with a lost limb, but also with a lost prospect. In the midst of it all he struggles with love. His wife has left him many years ago, and he has no contact with her. He has no children.
In his loneliness and absence of a limb he gets help from a nurse who will help him in treating his wounds and getting his life back. He sends her away after just a week. A former lover turns up and they talk about love, Margaret McCord (the same name as a writer who wrote on a South African topic) would like to restart their former love relationship. Paul turns down the offer. Then, one day, Marijana Jokic turns up. She is, just as Paul Rayment, an immigrant, from Croatia. She is married with three children.
Paul would have liked to have children, but there is no offspring to love. Marijana has three children, a son among them. In order to reach and touch Marijana with love he tries to help Drago with schoolfees for a posh boarding school. He wants to be part of Marihana’s family.
The next woman enters his life. Her name is Elisabeth Costello and she is a novelist. She enters the story as a kind of alter ego of Paul Rayment. She also enters the love scene by offering a blind date with a Marianna, a blind lady, while Paul is blindfolded. But this proves to be another cul-de-sac.
The longing for love and to be loved is a cause for disturbed relationships. He gets into trouble with the husband of M, her children get into trouble. He sends away Elisabeth Costello, but she keeps on returning to show Pauls ways of loving relations. Mariajana keeps her distance.
Paul Rayment is de Slow Man, he is slow in his walk and in his life that longs for love. But he does not want want less than love. He is not longing for the loving care by Marijana, but he is longing for love itself. He longs to be loved.
Is it possible to be loved by someone? Is it possible to have loving relationships. With another? With your children. Paul Rayment is looking for it and he will not accept anything less.
J. M. Coetzee has written an intruiging novel. Layers of love are laid bare. What are our intentions? Are we able to have loving relationships or do we settle for less?
J. M. Coetzee – Slow Man – 2005