Life & Times of Michael K is a 1983 novel by J.M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for the year 2003. The book itself won the Booker Prize for 1983. The novel is a story of a hare-lipped, simple gardener Michael K, who makes an arduous journey from civil war-ridden urban South Africa to his mother's rural birthplace, during an imagined near-future within the apartheid era. His journey starts in the devastated city of Cape Town, from where he literally carts his ailing mother to her childhood home in the rural Prince Albert. On the way there, she dies in a hospital, leaving him alone.
After her death, she is cremated and the ashes given to him. He vows to return them to her birthplace. He begins a long, ardous journey across the country to her childhood farm, sleeping rough and enduring many hardships along the way. The country is in war, and he sees many convoys going past. One of the soldiers ransacks his belongings and takes his money.
Eventually he reaches the place of his destination and finds the place deserted, the owners long gone. He scatters the ashes on the ground and takes up residence there. He kills goats and birds for food and drinks from the nearby dam. A member from the old family comes and wanting to escape the war, hides in the farmhouse. He survives on mealies and pumpkins, however, he is soon caught by the police who suspects him of aiding arsonists hiding in the mountains, and he is taken to a rehab center, where the doctor motivates him to tell his story, deeply moved by the man, K. However, K manages to escape back to Cape Town, where he settles down from where he started, realising his life, and his connection to the earth.
Some commentators notice a connection between the character Michael K and the protagonist Josef K. in The Trial by Franz Kafka. The book also bears many references to Kafka, and it is believed, "K" is a tribute to Kafka.