James Womack at Literary Review:
Is it just a writer’s insecurity? As though worried that he, or we, might forget what he’s up against, J M Coetzee regularly produces books that measure themselves alongside canonical predecessors: Life & Times of Michael K wears its debt to Kafka in its title, just as Foe beckons to Robinson Crusoe. The Master of Petersburg is a fantasia that bends Dostoevsky into The Brothers Karamazov. If it isn’t insecurity, it might be hubris, in which case Coetzee’s Jesus trilogy is likely to do little more than strengthen the arguments of his detractors – which monument can I stand next to now, Ma? The sense of a writer finding material worth riffing on never quite goes away, but there is more to it than that: in their needling, selfish, dry-as-dust way, these three books are works of cumulative power and never less than consistent interest.
Like the two novels that preceded it, The Death of Jesus is difficult to get a handle on. Of course, given the title, its trajectory is clearer than those of The Childhood of Jesus and The Schooldays of Jesus.