This essay situates J. M. Coetzee's fiction in the context of a recent attempt to reintroduce the poets into the philosophical republic. In particular, I develop an ethical reading of Coetzee's novelistic project that is grounded in an understanding of the literary work as an event. The idea was first applied to Coetzee's oeuvre by Derek Attridge and supports the singularity of the encounter with the literary piece as a transformative, self-questioning moment. I apply this model to a reading of Diary of a Bad Year, and, after addressing issues of conventional taxonomy proposed by philosophers, I give the final word to Coetzee himself quacommentator of his own work. Finally, I suggest that we view Coetzee's use of irony as a vehicle for both convention disruption and ethical responsibility.