The Coup

The Coup

by John Updike


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The Coup describes violent events in the imaginary African nation of Kush, a large, landlocked, drought-ridden, sub-Saharan country led by Colonel Hakim Félix Ellelloû. (“A leader,” writes Colonel Ellelloû, “is one who, out of madness or goodness, takes upon himself the woe of a people. There are few men so foolish.”) Colonel Ellelloû has four wives, a silver Mercedes, and a fanatic aversion—cultural, ideological, and personal—to the United States. But the U.S. keeps creeping into Kush, and the repercussions of this incursion constitute the events of the novel. Colonel Ellelloû tells his own story—always elegantly, and often in the third person—from an undisclosed location in the South of France.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812982978
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/13/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 310,499
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.

Date of Birth:

March 18, 1932

Date of Death:

January 27, 2009

Place of Birth:

Shillington, Pennsylvania

Place of Death:

Beverly Farms, MA


A.B. in English, Harvard University, 1954; also studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England

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Copyright © 2012 John Updike.
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The Coup: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In honor of John Updike¿s passing, I decided to have a go at the one big-name book from his writing prime that I¿d never read: The Coup. And I¿m certainly glad I did.Writing in the mid-1970s, Updike breaks away from his typical fascination with skanky suburban housewives, and takes his readers along on a sometimes-bizarre but always lyrical journey to an imaginary African country, seen through the eyes of its erstwhile Islamic Marxist dictator. Colonel Ellellou, said dictator, is a marvelous satiric creation. Educated in part in Wisconsin, of all places, Ellellou spends much of the novel visiting his four wives and one mistress. One of these wives is a nice white middle-class Midwestern girl who¿s swept away by the romance and ideological impact of marrying an exotic African student who¿s well-connected back in his homeland. Updike's insights into this relationship are particularly tragicomic and poignant.The best part of the novel follows Ellellou as he goes on a kind of camel-oriented road trip to his country¿s deepest and most isolated badlands, where revelation awaits him. As the story progresses, Updike builds a quite pointed critique of `big man¿ African dictatorships in the post-colonial era, and of the twin follies of western and Soviet `aid¿ efforts in Africa. What¿s particularly interesting to contemplate is the likelihood that Updike could not even have published this book today. The parts of the book that satirize Islam would likely have left it languishing in a publisher¿s limbo.