...when I read this sort of thing in Coetzee's new one... (bought one, still warm from the press, today...)
If none is left who will pronounce judgment on such a life, if the Great Judge of All has given up judging and withdrawn to pare his nails, then he will pronounce it himself: A wasted chance.
Compare (from Joyce's Portrait):
The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.
And further back, from Flaubert's letters, what Joyce was filially deranging:
An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere, and visible nowhere. Art being a second Nature, the creator of that Nature must behave similarly. In all its atoms, in all its aspects, let there be sensed a hidden, infinite impassivity. The effect for the spectator must be a kind of amazement. “How is all that done?” one must ask; and one must feel overwhelmed without knowing why.
So Coetzee's running it in reverse... Not like god paring his fingernails... but god himself that we're worried about. But wait: not god but "the Great Judge of All." Think I see where we're headed here - do you?
In the previous paragraph we had "the word of the gods, tapped out on their occult typewriter."
I'll keep you posted...